Here on campus, we hold space in our schedule for chapel on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. Our chapel theme for this fall is “A New Creation.” This theme, grounded in Isaiah 65: 17-18, invites us to reflect on God's work in continually making all things new.
It’s the start of the academic year—a great time to talk about newness and renewal.
But first, I need to talk about the bat.
I am new to my position at Luther, but I am not new to town. My only “moving” task was to relocate my office.
It was late on a Sunday evening when I went to church to retrieve the last boxes and lamps from my previous office. I propped open the church door, opened the back hatch of my car, and successfully loaded two rounds of boxes. I was on a roll! Ten minutes and I’d be done and home.
I grabbed a third box from my office. I stepped into the hallway.
A bat swooped around the corner and over my head.
A big one.
I dove back into my office, threw the box to the ground, slammed the door, and turned off all the lights.
“Give it five minutes,” I told myself. “Surely, he’ll notice the open door to the outside and fly to his freedom.”
I dawdled. I texted my husband. I gave it five minutes plus a couple bonus minutes.
I opened my office door and stuck my head out into the hallway. No movement. I took a quiet step out. Still nothing. I took a careful step to the edge of the hallway and peered around the corner.
He swooped toward me (again), I dove back into my office (again), slammed the door (again), and this time, laughed out loud.
Here I was, held hostage in my office, in the dark, by a bat who just wouldn’t leave. I had boxes to move. Even if I wanted to ditch them and call it a night, that bat was still between me and my car.
I considered climbing out a window, but that didn’t seem safe. Or practical.
So I sat in the dark of my office and gave myself a series of pep talks.
You are bigger than the bat. Literally.
You have done harder things than this.
You can coexist with the bat.
You have to leave your office sometime.
I started with baby steps. I flung each of the remaining boxes into the hallway, one by one, slamming the door after each toss.
I waited a bit longer. And then it was time.
I took a deep breath. I put my head down. I girded my loins, to put it biblically. And as fast as I could manage, I hurled myself into the hallway, running the rest of those boxes out to my car as fast as I could.
The bat neglected to make another appearance. Hopefully he found his freedom out that open door. (I wish him well. May he have lots of room to fly and many mosquitos upon which to feast.)
Whenever we are facing the new and the unknown, how often do we give ourselves similar pep talks to the one I gave myself above?
You are bigger than what scares you.
You can do hard things.
You can find your place in this world.
You can’t stay stuck here forever.
Like a grown woman willing herself to cross the threshold into an uncertain hallway, how often do each of us set our jaws, put our heads down, and ignore the knots in our bellies in order to take that first gritty step across the threshold from the old into the new and the next?
For me, a new job. For some, a new academic year, or a newly developed course offering, or the newness of starting college. New friends, new opportunities, new creativity, new risks.
This is the time of year for newness to be our way of life. It’s a good excuse to reflect on our priorities and on the state of our hearts. Where is God preparing us for new things? What new things will take courage? What new things are filled with both uncertainty and hope? What new paths are we being called to travel?
I can’t guarantee that there won’t be things that swoop at you as you take the new step. But remember that butterflies and hummingbirds swoop just as much as bats do.
There’s a lot of unknown out there. But there’s also a lot of beauty.
May you take a brave step into the new day. May you have courage. May you find strength you didn’t know you had. And may you step past what is hard into the wide expanse of what you and this world are becoming.