Spring Fever doesn’t only affect students. I’m struggling with it myself just now, as are most of my colleagues. It’s so tempting just to pad the day with busy work, letting behavior issues slide, not to mention homework and classroom teaching. And don’t even mention grading papers—I’m so far behind I’m going to have to pull an all-nighter just to get caught up before report cards go out. I’m like the horse who sees the barn in the distance and breaks into a run, ignoring everything between me and that door that leads to comfort and rest.
At times like these it’s important to remember the “law of undulation.” This is a term C.S. Lewis coined in his fabulous book, The Screwtape Letters, and it refers to the natural ebb and flow of our lives in everything from times and seasons to moods and relational dynamics. Anyone who has it in their head to accomplish anything of lasting significance, or to finish what they’ve started, has to maintain a certain amount of focus; we’re all familiar with the illustration of living aimlessly and ending up nowhere, and most of us have set goals of various kinds that we’re determined to attain: earning a degree, rearing well-behaved children, forging a healthy marriage. What are we to do when the determination wanes and we forget the worthiness of the goal, or just become so weary that it seems we can’t go on?
One option is to gut it out. Another is to make excuses, and eventually just give up—what were we thinking, anyway? Some goals are so difficult and take so long to accomplish that maintaining them takes more commitment than we feel able to maintain. This is precisely where the law of undulation comes in. If we can remember that changes in commitment, enthusiasm, affection, interest, focus, and just about everything else you can think of are in a constant state of flux (undulation), that this is normal, and that we will at some point regain the sense of purpose that led us to set our goals in the first place, it will help us not to throw in the towel. This, too, shall pass.
The next time you feel you’ve failed, that you can’t finish what you’ve started, or that you are simply a terribly flawed individual, unable to stick to anything, remember the law of undulation. Or remember what the Psalmist said: “Why so downcast, o my soul?… Hope in God, for I will again praise Him, my help and my God.” Ps. 43: 5