Each summer, I attempt to read through at least a few classic books. Many of these wonderful books, I did not have the opportunity to read while in school, so I am taking the chance now.
This past summer, I read Confessions, by Augustine of Hippo, an early philosopher and theologian of the Christian faith. One main idea he discusses is that, as humans, we are loving beings. We all love something. Augustine challenges himself and his readers to consider what they love and to whom they direct their love, for what we love is what we become most like.
I am not sure there is a better time for us to consider this idea. With everything that is going on in the world, it is more important than ever for us to direct our affections toward things that are truly good for us and lead to a flourishing life.
But how can we direct our loves and desires? Is it even possible to change what we love? Actually, it is. If we are not careful, we actually begin to love things that we had no conscious intention of loving! Science continues to show us that what we love and what we desire are learned, through repeated actions or practice.
So how does this play out in our daily lives? Our actions, or how we choose to spend our day, greatly impacts the person we become. The things we choose to make most important in our lives become the things that we love the most, and ultimately, change who we become.
Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.2 Corinthians 3:17-18 ESV
What we behold is what we become. It is important that we set up routines in our lives that encourage us and guide us to become who we want to be. Have you implemented many practices into your days that help direct your affections toward things that are good and helpful, things that lead you to a flourishing life in Christ? These practiced routines both remind us who we are, and challenge us to become something more.
Let’s look at a simple example. When you greet someone, whether a friend, acquaintance, or stranger, do you thoughtfully respond to questions and ask similar questions in response? Do you give eye contact when speaking to another person? While this may seem simple, it is actually very important! It is helping us see other people as fully people, to be respected and to be given due attention.
Do you pray for your day or sing songs of praise? In my job, I am privileged to do this with my students. We begin each day with a learned prayer that we recite together:
Unto you, oh, Lord, this day, I submit my heart, my head, and my hands.
This routine helps us remember that we are all part of something outside of ourselves. It reminds us of our focus for each day to submit our work, our thoughts, and our affections to God.
At the end of each day, in my classroom, we spend time reflecting on where we experienced joy each day. A mentor once told me, “Whatever you assess is what children will see as important.” For this reason, I assess joy each day. I ask, “Where did you receive joy today? Where did you give joy today? Where did we share joy today?” These simple reflections, when repeated daily, help each child to learn to love giving and sharing in joy each day.
Charlotte Mason states that “an observant child should be put in the way of things worth observing,” but that can be said of all of us. Throughout our day, are we careful in choosing what we put in front of us and our children? Do the books we read have ideas that are worthy to think about? Are the characters in the story portraying virtue (…and are we, as examples to not only children, but those around us)? Are the stories in the movies or TV shows we are watching helping us to better understand God and the world? Is the art beautifully drawn? Is what we speak accurate and helpful? The things that we dwell upon have a great impact on who we become.
This practice is good for our community to consider, especially given our national circumstances. How do we help each other deal with the uncertainty that faces each day or the challenges that may come? What do we do when all around us, it seems things are falling apart or not going as we expected or hoped?
One solution might be to create basic routines to remind us of who we are in Christ and who we want to become. Maybe it is something as simple as spending time each night sharing what we are thankful for that day, in order to grow into more thankful people. Maybe it is choosing to read a chapter of the Bible or a book that inspires everyone toward a virtuous life together over breakfast or before bed each night, or maybe you just share a story that you enjoy! Maybe it is praying a blessing over each of your children at night or before they go to school…or your spouse before they leave for work. I can’t think of a time where we need blessing more.
Now, more than ever, it is good to consider where we are directing our time, affections, and desires. Meaningful routines give us structure, something to rely on, and something that helps us become more like Christ.
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.Philippians 4:8
Ben Sytsma teaches 5th grade at Calvary Schools of Holland and also acts as Assistant Principal of the elementary campus. Mr. Sytsma completed his Bachelors in Education and is currently pursuing his Masters in Education at Dordt University. He is a graduate of the Ambleside Master Teacher Training Program and has been on staff at Calvary Schools of Holland since 2014.
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