September is here and brings to mind all things fall- apples and crisp mornings and back to school. (Even though for some unknown reason Georgia started back to school in July this year- yes...JULY...but I cannot accept the start of school until near Labor Day so I have spent more than a month now in complete denial.) But at last it is September and the farewell to summer and hello to fall has begun.
One of my favorite things about the start of a school year is new school supplies..specifically pencils. I love a good pencil. Mechanical pencils are great for their practicality- now that you no longer sit in a room with a heavy metal pencil sharpener attached to one wall for your pencil sharpening needs, the convenience of the mechanical pencil can't be denied. But I really prefer a good old fashioned #2 pencil. And you can't beat a freshly sharpened Ticonderoga. Oh how I love a pencil fresh out of the package with a point so sharp you could accidentally poke a hole in your own hand. The crisp lines, the graphite, the way it feels in your hand- it holds the promise of something unwritten begging to be put to paper, something unsaid longing for the words.
When I was younger though, I did not hold the same love for pencils. I longed for the day I could write in pen. Pen represented crossing the threshold from childhood to adult years. In elementary school- only pencil was allowed for every single subject. So oppressive. I hated the ridges the pencil left on my finger where it pressed against the skin as I wrote and wrote and wrote. Middle school began to open the doors to the coveted pen years. Now you could use a pen for certain assignments but NEVER in math. All math MUST be done in pencil. Teachers had so little faith in my calculations, I guess, that I had to make sure everything was erasable. Then high school offerred even more opportunities to write with pens- so long as they were black or blue- no colors especially not red. And finally college where the rules went out the window because now everything had to be TYPED. What?? Twelve years preparing for college and not a single typing class.
But now I am an adult and I can write in pen whenever I want. And in whatever color I want. And you know what I want? I want to write in pencil. Crisp, clean, erasable pencil. As a child you have this idea that when you grow up- you won't need to erase things. You will know the things so when you give an answer, when you make a statement, when you make a plan- it will be written in pen because you know what to do. It is definite, it is firm, it is right. Because now you know all the things you spent your childhood learning (except typing). But then you grow up and you don't know the things. And the things you thought you knew- you realize maybe you didn't really know after all. I mean, you start out thinking you know and you put the plans in pen. You give the answers in pen. You make the statements in pen. But then you have to go back and see that statement that you have now experienced the reality of instead of the theory of and it's not so concrete. But it's in pen and you can't erase it so you cross it out. Then you scribble it out. Then you think maybe no one will notice the mistake if you can turn the scribble into some sort of shape or picture so you keep scribbling but it just gets bigger and bigger and never really looks like what you want it to ( a lion head...but it just looks like a giant misshapen cloud with words seeping through like a bad memory of a wrong belief that you want to forget but you just can't seem to leave behind you)
So after a few pen years, I guess I began to love the possibilities that pencils held. They represented a return to learning instead of having to know. They gave me permission to make mistakes without the threat of being surrounded by sad scribble clouds everywhere I turned. They offered mercy for mistakes and hope to try again. Pencils say "nothing is permanent" in the best possible way. I can learn and grow and change knowing the only One who has to be right all the time is Jesus. The only One who has to have all the answers to all the things is God. I get to be a child with Him for the rest of my life. I get to write in pencil - and with His help I get to rewrite the stories that went awry. He erases the mistakes of my past and rewrites my story with His love. So no matter how things seem, I can sit, freshly sharpened pencil in hand, awaiting what He and I will write for the next chapter.