I can still remember the fanfare (in my mind as a student, at least) that accompanied the end of the school year. The radio usually blared forth Alice Cooper’s anthem multiple times throughout the week: "Out for summer, out till fall, we might not go back at all… School's out forever… School's out for summer!" Feelings of exhilaration were in the air as a sense of freedom abounded in most every student’s heart. Sure, school would resume again, but that was not until the fall - three whole months away. For now, at least, we were free!
But then, my way of thinking slowly began to change. As high school unfolded, I soon realized that summers out of school no longer meant carefree days of frolicking, picnicking, and swimming. Rather, it meant getting a job. It meant working! Dare I say it; as a result, very soon I actually missed school.
And then came the spring of 1979. I finished up at high school a quarter early. (We were on the quarter system back then.) Now, I had been planning for this all along. It had been my intention to build up my credits so I could get out early in order to get a job to save up some money for college.
When I came home from school for the last time on that spring day, the house was empty. I remember that I sat down in chair in the living room and, rather suddenly found myself overcome with remorse. Wow! School really was over. Sure, all my friends were out as well. But they were only on a brief hiatus. Soon they would return to school.
But not me. I was headed to work first thing Monday morning at the local Chevrolet dealership. While all of my friends (including my girlfriend) were living it up and laughing together all day long at school, I would now be washing cars and sweeping floors eight hours a day for a whopping $3.25 per hour. Abruptly, I was filled with envy for my friends and pity for myself. I broke down and, alone in my little world, had myself a good cry.
Of course, six months later, I was back in school - this time at a junior college. And a year later, school was out again. Three months later, I was a student at major university. Three years later, school was out again. As it was to be once again, three years later after I finished seminary. And then again, four years later after graduate school was over.
Ironically, in this year in which my high school graduating class is celebrating its 35th anniversary, I am still in school, working on a second doctorate this time. And even if I were not, there is one thing I have learned; and that is that school never lets out. Indeed, one will always be enrolled in some form of school in life.
At times, this will be quite literal. Indeed, most professions require some sort of continuing education process in order to maintain certification. School teachers must take so many units of continuing education in order to remain in the classroom. The same is true for physicians, lawyers, bankers, etc… In truth, many denominations even require their clergy to take continuing
But even if one is not in such a profession, companies usually mandate courses in learning in how to operate new equipment, employee safety, procedures, etc… And yet, in a very real sense, no matter where one works or does not work, we all remain in school for life. If nothing else, we find ourselves enrolled in the proverbial "School of Hard Knocks"!
for learning, I have discovered, is indeed a life-long process. So much so that he or she who stops learning is in trouble; for he or she will soon be left behind, and thus run the risk of quickly becoming obsolete.
All of this reminds me of the words of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew (chapter 11, verse 29): "Take my yoke upon you and learn from me…" Two words chosen by Jesus are of interest in this verse. The first is the word "learn". In the original language of the New Testament (Koine, or "common" Greek), the word is “mathete”, meaning “to be a disciple”.
It comes from the root word "manthano", which properly means "learning key facts". But the emphasis is on gaining "fact-knowledge as someone learns from experience, often with the implication of reflection, as in 'coming to realize' (something over time)" (http://biblehub.com/greek/3129.htm).
Jesus, the Great Teacher, reminds us that following Him means being a student for life. We learn from Him over the long haul. We do not graduate from "Discipleship 101" and thereafter never need learn more.
The second word is "yoke". It is the word "zygon", meaning a the yoke worn by oxen while plowing. In represents "the ancient Jewish idea of a heavy burden, comparable to the heavy yokes resting on the necks of bulls or oxen". But again, as words have meaning both in their denotation and in their connotation, there is much more to the word Jesus chose to use here.
While "zygos" (same word as "zygon", only in the nominative case) properly means a yoke, or a wooden bar placed over the neck of a pair of animals so they can pull together; "it figuratively means what unites (or joins) two people to move (or work) together as one. It reflects the uniting of two elements working together as one unit, like when two pans (weights) operate together on a balance-scale – or a pair of oxen pulls a single plough" (http://biblehub.com/greek/2218.htm).
So, as followers of Jesus, we are to learn from Him continuously throughout life. And we do this most effectively as we walk with Him, hand in hand (or yoked together), throughout the various tasks ands/or struggles of life. Now, isn’t that good news?! The lessons of life can often be hard on us. But as we struggle with their difficulty, we do so hand in hand, arm in arm, with the one who helps us learn from the experience.
How about that? We have none other than the Son of God Himself for a personal Tutor! That being the case, all I can say is, “Sign me up for every available course!” For, along with my fellow student, Paul the Apostle, it is with confidence that I proclaim (Philippians 4:13): "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." And praise God, this includes any old assignment, no matter how daunting, that the school of life can ever dish out!