A year of Jubilee

I really like the idea of years of Jubilee mentioned in the Bible. A very brief (and incomplete) explanation is that every 50 years, there would be a year of Jubilee to the Lord. What this meant is that in the 50th year no planting would be done. All debts would be forgiven and all slaves would be released. Foreseeing the possibility of abuse in this system, God made sure to note that prices for land should reflect how near or far to the year of Jubilee it was and then be sold accordingly. Years of Jubilee were to be years of rest, rejuvenation, and fresh starts.

I like this idea not only because it is explained in Leviticus (and who knew there was anything worth reading in Leviticus?) but because there is no record of anyone following the years of Jubilee ever. No one has ever seen a need or practical way to actually put these radical ideas into practice even though as much as any other scripture they are pretty straightforward.

Obviously actually making the year of Jubilee work in today’s society would be completely unfeasible, but I feel like it has something to teach us nonetheless. As I continue to walk that long, windy road into full blown adulthood I feel a lot of conflicting expectations on my life. American society seems rather obsessed with the idea of settling down, starting a family, buying a house and getting the job that supports all these glorious endeavors. The good life or the “American Dream”, if you will.

However, my life since college has not really reflected those values. I have been overwhelmingly nomadic. I have lived overseas twice for a year each time, possessing only what I could fit into two large checked bags, plus my backpack and laptop. I have worked at a camp for 3 summers, fitting all I would need for two months in my car. During in-between times I have lived at home, worked part-time and seasonal jobs and gone to school. I have lived cheaply and I have enjoyed it. Each time I have gone to or left a place has been like a year of Jubilee for me. I have had to pack up and clear out. I have had to decide what to take, leave behind, and throw away. It is freeing in many ways to realize how little one needs and it is also unsurprisingly cheaper.

There are downsides of course. Everywhere I have gone I have met wonderful people who I have to bid goodbye. A few I will see again but the vast majority are simply great memories. Perhaps this is why the year of Jubilee has never been practiced; it is just too hard to always leave that which you have come to know and love.

Lord willing, at this time next year I will have a job as a teacher. I will have a school to work at and will need to find housing near that school. By any definition I will have to start the lifelong process of settling down. I cannot wait to finally teach again but I just hope that even as I do I don’t lose my perspective on settling. I hope I keep an open mind to the opportunities that exist for me and places I can go. I may never have an actual year of Jubilee but perhaps, if I am lucky, I can make it a small reality throughout my life.

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Smiles

Tomorrow morning I drive back home after yet another summer at camp. Pretty much everyone has left from the summer staff leaving camp a quiet and humbling place. This was my 6th full summer on staff here and more than most left me thinking about why I keep returning to this place. As I thought about this and my summer as whole, two things entered my mind. The first was simply an image from week one, in fact the very first day campers had arrived. Most of the summer I felt pretty consistently tired and so at the start I was questioning my motivation to be here another summer. But as I greeted kids and their parents and saw them sitting in the dining hall, chatting and smiling away I knew I had made the right decision to return. 

Fast forward to week six. 215 campers. Overall craziness and chaos. Many staff and myself are just tired. And I decide to plan the most epic night of fun for my camper’s unit night. Afterwards, as the kids are eating snack, a bunch of girls and counselors straggle in with a girl who is bawling. Apparently during the game some boys had said an awful comment about this girl’s appearance. I had not noticed this girl all week but in my position as unit director I sat her down and tried my best to comfort her. As I learned what had happened I simply said, “You know we can’t control what people say but God made you beautiful just the way you are and whenever says something like that again I want you to remember that.” She calmed down a little bit after that and I hoped for the best. There was only 2 more days left of camp but the change I saw in this girl was monumental. This quiet, unassuming 11 year old who I hadn’t even noticed for 4 days was now constantly smiling. She had a blast in her week at camp.

Lots of great stuff happened this summer. Kids played games, did activities and ran around in ways they simply can’t at home. They sang songs and had spiritual moments that they have never had and may never experience in their home churches. The logical outcome of all this is very simply smiles. I worked at camp this summer. I made kids smile. That is enough for me.