Tomorrow it begins for many of you. Later this week it begins for more of you. By next week all students will be back in school. The return to school ripples through society in a lot of different ways. Families with school age children have to get into the school routine which includes earlier bedtimes. Traffic patterns return to normal volumes with families back from vacation. Malls are quieter during the week and busier on weekends. Almost everyone gets into that production, work and study mindset that comes with the onset of a new school year.
Part of the return to school ritual can include obtaining new clothes and school supplies. When I was in Junior High, I remember my Mom doing my school shopping for me. I hated shopping especially for clothes at that age. I still do to an extent. But my Mom loved it. So she would get the clothes and the school supplies.
One year she brought home this backpack from a place called Logos Christian Bookstore. It actually said the name of the store on the back of the backpack. Mom was very excited about it. I was horrified. I couldn’t wear a backpack that promoted a “Christian” book store to school. People would make fun of me. But I was a little too shy to say something about it. Mom was so pleased with it. Besides it didn’t actually say “Logos Christian Bookstore” but “Logos Books.” Maybe I would get away without anyone really noticing anything.
I went to school with the backpack and no one commented for a couple of days. But on about the third day, I heard the voice of one of the most outspoken kids in my class. As we exited school he said very loudly to a friend, “Hey Joe, did you see the backpack Anderst is wearing? It comes from a place where they sell religious books.” Then he laughed loudly and everyone near me took note of the backpack. I scurried home out of embarrassment disgusted that he had done this. Yet I didn’t say anything to my Mom. I knew that as a Christian I was supposed to stand up for Christ. So I thought this was just part of it even though I was afraid.
The next day, I took the backpack again. And when school was done loudmouth following me out. “Oh no,” I thought to myself. What’s he going to say now? But he didn’t say anything. All I heard was what sounded like someone clearing their throat. Then I heard another sound something like “pfft.” I looked around and saw him standing behind me kind of grinning. But I didn’t think much of it – until a couple of other kids got behind me on the sidewalk on the way home. I heard one of them gasp “look at what’s on his backpack.” I was sure they referred to the Logos logo. So I decided to just ignore them and go home. But when I got home, I looked at the back of my backpack. There was a blob of something that the loud guy had worked up in his mouth and then spat onto my backpack. He hit a perfect strike. It hit the backpack near the top and ran down the whole length before dripping on the ground.
Well that was it for me. I had enough of this torment. I just wanted it to stop. So I showed my Mom the backpack. Then I told her I would not be bringing it anymore. I didn’t need the abuse. The next day, I think the loudmouth asked me about my backpack. I made some excuse and he left me alone. I gained relief from the torment. But I remember that whenever I saw that backpack in storage over the next years, I felt a twinge of guilt. It reminded me of how I caved to this person’s mockery really over my faith. It’s like I feared his taunts more than I cared about standing up for Christ.
That became a pattern in my life for the next few years. I was a closet Christian. I distinctly remember another time in high school when an opportunity arose for me to identify myself as a Christian that I deliberately avoided. Persecution came and I buckled under its weight. In those days, fear overruled my faith and belief that God had this in hand.
If you’re a Christian here today, I wonder if you have experienced persecution or rejection because of your faith in Christ. If so, how did you respond?