My son, if you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you, making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding; yes, if you cry out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures; then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.
Proverbs 2: 1-5
Many people who receive these messages are students, as well as parents and grandparents of students, as well as teachers. Over the next couple of weeks, schools will resume, young adults will head off to college, teenagers will transition to high school, little kids will go to elementary school and toddlers will head off to pre-school for the first time. Others not in transition will head back to familiar schools, albeit with new teachers. It will be a time of excitement as a new year begins, anxiety because of unknowns that lie around the corner, and for some, sadness as the carefree days of summer end and the grind of the school year begins. Here are a few thoughts about school:
All a person can do is his or her best. We can’t all be gifted in every subject or ace every test. There will be days when we give our best and the results will not be what we’d hoped for. This is as true in school as it is in adult life, family life, and career. I’ve written many times that God rewards effort, not success. If we’ve put in the effort, which is the thing we can control, if we’ve given our best, then there is nothing to feel bad or guilty about if the results are not the top. I remember from my high school years, no matter how hard I tried, I just wasn’t going to master chemistry. I had aptitude in just about every subject, but not chemistry. I did not grow up to be a chemist, and thankfully, the priesthood doesn’t require my knowledge of the periodic table. Give your best, and when you’ve done that, put your mind at rest.
Develop a sense of discipline. Distraction makes discipline more challenging. Back when I was a student 30 years ago, there were no cell phones. If I was studying and had a thought “What is playing at the movies this weekend?” I couldn’t act on that thought. I had no phone or Google or Siri to ask, so my thought would stop, and I would continue studying. Now, with all our technology, the second we have a thought, we have a way to act on that thought, so we check our phone or text a friend or find a webpage and very quickly a momentary distraction has lasted more than an hour. It takes most people much longer to do tasks than it should because we are constantly distracted. The antidote is discipline. Be disciplined not to look at the phone constantly. Turn the phone over, or use checking the phone as a reward for completing an assignment or working for a specific period of time, like after working for an hour.
Put every day under the umbrella of God. The beginning of the school year means waking up to an alarm. Some people put the alarm away for the summer, they wake up whenever. With the school year beginning, there is a discipline of getting up, preparing, and leaving the house by a certain time in order to get to school on time. Our rituals—brushing teeth, shaving, showing, dressing, eating—become more focused because they are now time-sensitive. Set the alarm five minutes earlier and begin your day with five minutes alone with God. While it may seem counterintuitive to some that in the midst of rushing in the morning, to stop to pray, setting the day under God’s blessing makes me more efficient as well as more confident. There is something very powerful about praying to God “Please help me be efficient and confident today”. Just saying those words out loud builds confidence.
One last thought on this—in football, I’ve often heard running backs described as “patient” runners. That’s seems kind of ridiculous, when a football play involves 22 people moving quickly and generally is over in a few seconds. How can there be any patience involved there? The answer is that the “patient” runners are not anxious, they manage to “slow down” enough to see holes and know where to run. When I begin the day with prayer, it helps me slow down. Slowing down makes me more patient. And in the chaos of life, like the “patient runner” in a football games, I have the eyes to see the possibilities, the wisdom to make better decisions, and the stamina to touch all the bases.
Blessed are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the Lord! Blessed are those who keep His testimonies, who seek Him with their whole heart, who also do no wrong, but walk in His ways! Thou hast commanded Thy precepts to be kept diligently. O that my ways may be steadfast in keeping Thy statutes! Then I shall not be put to shame, having my eyes fixed on all Thy commandments. I will praise Thee with an upright heart, when I learn Thy righteous ordinances. Psalm 119:1-7
Do your best. Be disciplined. Pray.