O Me of Little Faith

O Me of Little Faith

Back to School in a Christian T-Shirt

Yesterday was the first day back to school for my kids, both of whom are in elementary school.

As a parent, this time of year is always a struggle for me. On one hand, I like returning to the more rigid schedule that the school year brings. Bedtimes are earlier, for one thing — which means more time for me to exercise and work on books. (Which sounds kind of selfish, I guess, but I try to only do those things — work out and write books — when it doesn’t take time away from my kids. After all, the books are my side job.)

But on the other hand, we always have such a fun summer, and I love summer nights with the kids. I love vacations. I love taking lunch breaks at the swimming pool.

And on the other other hand (apparently I now have three hands), I hated returning to school as a kid. Not because I was such a fiend for summer, but because I was very shy and introverted. A new school year meant new situations, new classes, new teachers, new students, and new places for me to feel uncomfortable. I loved the idea of going to school — I always enjoyed learning stuff — but the public-school environment stressed me out.


I worried about what other kids were wearing.

I worried whether I had the right supplies.

I worried about getting to school on time, and finding my classes on time, and about knowing where to go and what to do.

I worried about standing out too much, and then I worried about not standing out enough. Why? Because I also worried about my Christian witness, because it was always so important — according to my Sunday School teachers and youth group — that I not hide my faith. If I didn’t claim Jesus, why should he claim me? So I HAD to make sure my friends knew that I was a Christian. Which means every first day of my four years of high school I wore a Christian t-shirt on my first day of school, usually a shirt from my church’s youth camp that summer.


christiantshirt.jpgI wasn’t the kind of kid to walk around talking much about Jesus (it SO wasn’t my personality, to my constant chagrin and guilt), but if Jesus could die on the cross for my sins, I could wear a t-shirt that said “Our God is an awesome God!” for one day. And so I forced myself to, even though it made me entirely self-conscious and I felt totally conspicuous the whole day. Even though it made me feel like a total dork. And even though i felt guilty for feeling like a dork, because if I loved Jesus shouldn’t I be willing to feel like a dork for his sake?


Sheesh. I hated my first days, but I was totally neurotic. Anyway, I want my kids’ first days to be as great and stress-free as possible. Because I get it. I understand the worry. I lived it for a decade, and I’m working hard to make sure my kids don’t experience Christian t-shirt stress.


What about you? What do you remember about your first days of school each year? Did you freak out about it like me (for religious reasons or otherwise)? Or do you live all summer for the return of school?

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bryan a

posted August 24, 2010 at 7:43 am

funny, but i remember always wearing my favorite shirt and jeans from back to school shopping on the first day of school. I felt like I was saying, “hey world, this is as good as this 10th grader is gonna look. Eat it up, folks.” (note: no one ate it up.)
Because of my perspective on what was important on the first day of school, I will still never forget this one kid named Billy in my grade who wore a Cal Ripken Orioles replica t-shirt (not jersey) on his first day. It had the name spelled wrong on the back (“Ripkin”), which as a sports nerd really bothered me. I still remember it to this day because I was like, “dude…THAT is the best you got for the first day of school?”
yeah, anyway. i dont really have a point, but thanks for reminding me of that.

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Brandon Sneed

posted August 24, 2010 at 7:53 am

Fortunately, in time my Christian school adopted uniforms, so I had no stress.
Although we weren’t allowed to wear certain colored undershirts.
So that was stressful.
And I had to have my hair cut so none of it “flared” or covered my ears. I fought that, and grew it out until I got a warning, and that’s all quite ironic considering I now shave my head.
But thankfully, no, no Christian t-shirts stress for me.
Although I do have a sweet “Lord’s Gym” t-shirt I’ve cut the sleeves off of to wear to the gym.

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Jonathan Chang

posted August 24, 2010 at 8:15 am

I hated going back to school. My mom never bought me new school stuff. And I always had to wear the stuff my brother wore. Eventually, I got used to the school year.
I always remember wondering who the girl I’d pick out to have a crush on though. Every year that happened. Although, in 10th grade is when I didn’t like anyone. Now that was probably my best year lol.

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posted August 24, 2010 at 8:21 am

I attended a Christian school through 8th grade, so I didn’t stress about what I wore much then. When I was in high school, I hit the place where I didn’t care. I don’t know that I wore many Christian shirts of the “ripped off from real products” sort, but I went to see a lot of Christian bands and would wear their shirts.
For the most part, I was pretty extroverted and genuinely managed to not care much about the dork factor (the lone exception being the time I wore toe socks, was teased mercilessly about it and never, ever wore them again, even though they. were. awesome.). And since I lived out a bit from my friends, I always relished going back to school and hanging out. Plus, I was a total band nerd, so there was that to look forward to.
I’m one of those rare people who have mostly fond memories of my high school years.

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posted August 24, 2010 at 9:01 am

Yeah. Actually… I totally remember first days of college the most clearly.
How much of a jerk was my RA going to be?
I attempted to rate this according to how long it would take her to confront me about my unnatural hair color (having just been dyed bright red… or blue… or purple… or green… all ostensibly for camp!) and report me. It seemed to work fairly well for the first 2 RA’s.
Then my friend started dating my third one before I ever met her, and told me “Melinda… I love you… but please don’t make her cry. That would suck.”
So then the stress was over how to enjoy myself and not make her cry. Answer: make sure I break all the rules OFF campus and just avoid her on campus.
Before college… i think i looked forward to the beginning of school. New teachers to challenge. And books to read. I, too, was a nerd.
(And if we have a nerd throw-down here, I would like to note that I not only looked forward to and enjoyed classes, but still stay in touch with my high school teachers, doing coffee with my favorites at least once a year. And we mostly talk about books. Take that.)

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posted August 24, 2010 at 9:14 am

I grew up labeled “nerd”, “geek” and “as*hole”. I loved going to school in HS for the first three periods because that was when Jazz Band and Concert Band met. I could have cared less for the rest of school.
I learned that if you were a Christian, and spoke up, you never would have many friends, even if they were Christian too, because in the 1908’s being religious was uncool.
The school systems now do better at keeping the bullying in check, but I think that they are all too cookie cutter molds and don’t do enough to help children learn WHY they need to understand subjects.

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posted August 24, 2010 at 9:16 am

Ooops, that should have been the 1980’s not 1908! I’m not THAT old.

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Tyson Lenerose

posted August 24, 2010 at 9:23 am

I loved summer; hated the return to school! I did not enjoy the public school experience at all (probably explains why I eventually graduated from a private Christian school).
I, too, was a kid that stressed out over all the myriad of possible awkward situations a new school year could put me in. I dreaded ending up in a class of mostly kids that I didn’t know very well. (That happened almost every year for me … even when I stayed at the same school!)
As for the Christian T-Shirt thing??? I had an epic Christian T-Shirt collection! It was famous. My friends couldn’t wait to see what I would wear next. I was blatantly Christian in my wardrobe, however, I was blatantly luke warm in my actions. I still feel horrible to this day about some things I said or did, probably while wearing a Christian T-Shirt. I wasn’t a “bad kid”, in fact I was what most would call a “nice Christian boy”. But I still feel bad looking back at how much better of a witness I could have been while screaming Jesus at people with my wardrobe!
Great topic, btw.
FWIW, my “reCaptcha” code below is: “offouses meals” … made me laugh.

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posted August 24, 2010 at 9:48 am

well, jason, we come out of the same pool (read youth group) so i feel ya brother. even as an extrovert i hated the pressure of the first day of school. it was a coming out day, wasn’t it? wear a christian t-shirt OR and this was more what my age group did….carry a bible everywhere. yep. don’t wear a backpack (that hides your faith too much) and instead carry your books so that your big leather bible can be the first thing people see. but that isn’t all. no, and this is the part i hated. deep breath. (i’ve never owned this before). i hated, hated, hated class introductions, the part of the first day where you stand up and tell a little about yourself. this is where the pressure was turned up. this is where you were supposed to verbally share something about how important God was to you. uuuggghhhhh. it felt so awkward and forced. sometimes i would chicken out and not do it but usually there was another member of the youth group in my class and i felt obligated by their guilt inducing stare to say something super spiritual. i could go on and on…boycotting prom…not hanging out where people with red party cups hung out…etc…etc…but you were there. you heard all the same stuff….
ahh christianity in the south. such unique expressions….

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Kenny Johnson

posted August 24, 2010 at 10:28 am

I was a bit socially awkward in late elementary school and jr. high. I was terribly self-conscious and had low self-esteem. I got picked on by other kids. Needless to say, I HATED school. I too, loved to learn, but I hated school because of the social aspect. I ended up dropping out of school in the 7th grade and went to independent study. I tried coming back to regular school in the 10th grade, but it didn’t last. The self-esteem issues plagued me for many years and in my 30s I still deal with them.
Funny though, I actually liked college. I’m currently working on a Masters.

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posted August 24, 2010 at 10:29 am

I wore various school uniforms from the age of 5 to the age of 18. I think school uniforms are a brilliant idea. I can’t imagine the pain and stress I would have experienced if I had had to worry about what to wear as well as trying to fit in with the other kids!

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Charlie's Church of Christ

posted August 24, 2010 at 10:55 am

I did the classic “I can’t find the bathroom so I’m going to urinate behind the dumpster” on my first day of high school.

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Chad Ray

posted August 24, 2010 at 11:02 am

I hated school. I think because of all the reason’s you mentioned. I was shy and introverted, and just plain felt awkward in every situation. I wanted to stand out in a good way but not enough to really be noticed too. The first days were so stressful for really no reason at all, and mostly I was completely self conscious about how I looked to other people, and still catch myself feeling that sometimes now.
Yeah, I was the nerdy “Christian good boy” that didn’t play sports and read all the time too, and would carry around a bible and whatever book i was reading. I remember wearing Christian T-shirts sometimes, but didn’t know how many I’d owned til I cleaned out my old clothes and donated ALL of them to a homeless shelter!
I ended up working a Christian camp for 4 summers in my mid 20s, and would pick out the craziest “Christian T-Shirt” (It is YooHoo Jesus Saved, A Bread Crumb & Fish) and give that camper a “special” prize from the Camp Staff. It was great, they never knew what it was for.

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chris miller

posted August 24, 2010 at 1:05 pm

worst back to school day, was 11th grade, the day before class began I was stung by a wasp and my whole hand was swollen. I began school with one normal hand and one that looked like a baseball grove from the 1920’s. Google that image and you’ll see what I mean. I was a partial freak that year.

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Stretch Mark Mama

posted August 24, 2010 at 6:38 pm

I seem to remember liking going back to school. Then again, I’ve had multiple dreams in my adulthood that involve not finding my locker, losing my books, not being able to get to my classroom, forgetting to sign up for classes, you get the idea. So maybe I have buried my deep-seated back-to-school issues. 😀

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posted August 24, 2010 at 11:06 pm

I hated returning to school, but going was the only way I could one day get out of it, so I kept going.
I never got that guilt trip thing about not speaking up about Jesus. I did the Christian T-shirt thing too, but it didn’t help that I cussed rather often, so it never really worked.

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like a child

posted August 25, 2010 at 8:02 am

Today was my first day for my daughter going to the “big” public school after a year in a half day private church based kindergarten program. I think I am more worried for her than for my first day in my own childhood. I too was not fond of school, and I think that explains some of my worry for her.
But most of the worry is due to the fact that my latest episode of doubting God’s existence was triggered by the issue of my child’s education. At our church and in my circle of Christian friends, we were in the minority for choosing the public school route (well, the public school route sort of choose us since there was no space at the christian private school and i thought it was excessively expensive anyways). We left a church over being the “only” ones, which started a cycle of doubt and then an insane amount of time reading into Christian apologetic works, and now I’m just exhausted! So your post brings me mixed emotions because so much angst is tied into my child’s education, both that of my childhood experience in schools, and my current pitiful state of doubt.

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Serenity Bohon

posted August 26, 2010 at 10:15 am

With 10, 9, and 4-year-old boys I finally think of high school boys as my future as a mom instead of as the people I have crushes on, so I find this story heartbreaking and adorable. It speaks so much to your character that you went through all this stress and made yourself wear those t-shirts! Don’t hate me, but seriously, can you imagine how Jesus must have felt about that? One one hand, I don’t want my kids to feel stress EVER. On the other hand, I so hope they still believe Jesus like that when they’re in high school. Great post.

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