The Checkbox Life and Cicadas

I remember each of my children’s university commencements, but one will not soon be forgotten. One of my kids was running late to graduation and sped into the stadium parking lot at the last minute, sprinting – gown flapping in hand – to make the processional line.

After the ceremony, as lunch grew near, we inquired: “Where is your car?” Evidently, the panic of the morning erased all memory of even a hint of which North-South-East-West direction was used for a possible parking place.

Yes; the first act of this newly minted college graduate was to lose a car. We actually had to return to the stadium lot after most vehicles had exited to drive around to locate it.

Checking Off A Task

I’ve lost count of the graduations I’ve attended (only one involved a lost car), and I confess that attending these events often felt like checking off a task on my list of dutiful responsibilities.

Perhaps you’ve felt this way, too; as for faculty, there seems to be no end to the checkboxes: Final grades submitted: Check. References completed: Check. Committee report done: Check. Attend graduation: Check. 

If graduation feels like a checkbox, it’s likely a bunch of life feels that way, too. Sadly, A checkbox life will end with “Retirement party thrown for me”: Check and “Death”: Check.

A Different Quality of Life

Thankfully, the Bible offers a different quality of life: the joy and adventure of following a person (John 10:27) and the thrill of participating in the good endeavors God specifically created us for (Eph 2:10), which are part of his plan to bless the world. Indubitably, we check our fair share of boxes along the way, but following a person, not checking boxes, becomes the animating passion for our lives. 

The Constancy of God’s Call, Presence. and Story

In an odd way, something is going on around the state of North Carolina right now that reminded me of God’s presence in my daily work. Currently, there are perhaps one million cicadas per acre here. They are everywhere. I’m told it hasn’t happened to this extent since 1803. 

Their white-noise-like roar is mesmerizing; it never stops. Step outside, and you hear the drone. All day. All night. I even hear it as I sit in my house. The distinctive droning buzz is loud enough to be heard but soft enough to be in the backdrop.  

This ever-present music beautifully reminds me of the constancy of God’s call, presence, and story. 

I finish a call: the noise is there. I finish ten emails; the noise is there. Whatever I’m working on, the gentle roar reminds me that I’m part of a bigger, better story – following the Lord of the universe. Any box I’m trying to check reminds me that there is something far more significant than a box. 

Following Christ

I suspect I’m not alone in needing help moving my life from checking boxes to following Christ. In some ways, I wish these cicadas would never leave, as they so effectively remind me of this story that surrounds me, that is always singing, always present. 

Most academics love this time of year, as it affords a chance to write, think, and publish, generally free of classroom responsibilities. Enjoy these months ahead, but treasure them as not simply a respite to check more boxes more efficiently. Instead, seek to listen to the music of the ever-present bigger and better story and follow Christ into all the places he’s calling you this summer. 

And congratulations on another great school year in the books!

Rick Hove

Executive Director

Faculty Commons

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