You know those final days of term? The ones where you’re just wishing time away and you have your sights set firmly on the holidays… The hard work will soon be over, and you’ll just be able to enjoy life. What a great feeling.
For me, those days still exist. I’ve never really left education. I went from school straight to university and ; teaching; now living in a boarding school. I still have those feelings at least six times a year. What’s more, where we live now is undeniably amazing. The house we live in is beautiful. The garden is huge and great fun. The village is lovely. The people around us are great to be with. It all makes everything about the holidays even better. We can enjoy all the privileges of home without any of the labour, the toil that comes with it during term time.
And then I read this from Philippians:
“For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain” And I thought how similar that was to waiting for the holidays. Here at work, we are doing what we firmly believe God has called us to. We are able to work in the lives of many young people and serve them and serve God through that. Our life is an opportunity to touch the lives of others with God’s love. That makes me think of the lyrics from Casting Crowns’ song
But if we are the body
Why aren’t His arms reaching?
That’s what living is about, surely. Being part of the body of Christ and all that means.
And yet, we still look forward to the holidays. Though the service is good, and it’s the right thing to be doing, we still look forward to the holidays. And maybe that’s kind of what Paul is saying. Right now, he knows that he is doing a good work: “…it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body [that is, that he doesn’t die yet]” And so he presses on with the work of term-time. But he’s still longing for the holidays. He’s looking ahead to the time when the work is done, and he can simply enjoy being in the company of his God and his heavenly family: “I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far”
This isn’t a morbid, “I wish I was dead”. That’s a dangerous road to travel. But it’s not at all what Paul is talking about here. It’s a yearning for something far greater than what he’s experiencing at the moment. I really get that. There are times in my life when I can say, with Paul, “to die is gain”. I’m not wishing myself dead, I’m not resenting the life that I have, though the burden of sin is certainly something I’m looking forward to getting rid of. Rather, I’m looking ahead to a time when the toil and labour of this life is completed. The bell signalling the end of term has rung.
I’m looking forward to the holidays.
What about you?