One would think that, having written an actual blog entry on it, I would have learned to be careful what I wish for in life. Nah.
One would also think that, given I’ve been teaching for several years now, I would realize that so much of teaching is actually learning new ways to see things from your students. Nah.
Oh, Reader. Each week you so patiently follow along as I climb on my makeshift soapbox made of pixels and font types as if I know what I’m actually talking about. I don’t. Confession: I know only those moments when God grabs my attention to gently make me see Him, like this week that has been unutterably exhausting in new and creative ways. I know only that the life of faith is, sometimes, not even in the same universe as fun, but that it is never, ever dull.
So I asked last week for a refocusing of my time and energy, for time to understand what is important to me. Sure, says God—let Me show you what that actually looks like.
Let Me have you teach a class on doubt in faith when you feel like you’re at the end of yours, and how about we include quotes like “deciding to struggle with our doubts and uncertainties within the context of the Christian community, we have decided to continue to participate in the Christian form of life on its own terms…It is a decision not to abandon the means whereby Christians believe God communicates and communes with us”? Because we both know that you’ve been having such fun with refiguring your place in your church home of late, and I want you to see that that still means something to you.
Let Me lead you into a meeting with Interpreter that tears your soul out and lays it bare in such a way that you have to start recognizing all of the places you won’t let Me be present in your life.
Let Me show you how you continue to blossom in your medieval Christianity class, engaging the material and the dynamic to the point where the professor actually accepts your correction of his pronunciation of your name and looks forward to having you in class again next term. A second A paper won’t hurt, either, in case you’re not getting where your energies and interests are these days.
Let Me sit patiently with you while public transit fails, and let Me be there when you realize that this frustration with stasis is an acceptable response but that you did what you could with it. Let Me then remind you how you kept Me out of it the entire time, because you preferred to blame yourself for trains over which you had no control, because you were so focused on being tired that you almost missed the angels I sent you to make the day work in a fashion you could not have foreseen.
Let Me bring you your students’ love of your enthusiasm such that they joke with you, remember the way you’ve presented things, and never miss a 9 a.m. class. Let Me remind you of the small things you’ve done this week to help others, and let Me remind you that it is not a contest of you trying to match what others have done to help you.
Do you get it yet? Do you see how much I love you? Do you see that your hecticness cannot overwhelm Me?
No, I still think I can do this by myself and perfectly, despite being neither alone nor perfect. I am inundated with appreciation and love, I am dear to others, I am valued. I tell this to others with such fervency and deny it to myself…why are we like that, Reader? Surely I’m not the only one with a ridiculous double standard. Surely I’m not the only one who scoffs at this God Who offers mercy that I throw away in search of my own justice.
In searching through the mountains of paper on my desk, I came across a note to myself from this summer when I helped a friend move. We got into a pretty serious conversation at one point when she realized that I had set aside this time just to help her and I would do whatever she needed to shift her belongings around, including bringing my not-inconsiderable organizational skills to bear. She could not accept that this is what friends do, that she was worth that time to me. She could not believe that I love her enough to help her move, along with all of the other components of our friendship in which I try to show her that she is valuable to me, that she is my friend. She got almost angry with me at one point, demanding to know what I was up to that I should be so helpful. Nothing, I told her; she needed help, I could give it. That was all there was to it.
Ah, teacher, teach thyself. How on earth can you so simply insist on loving someone else and not allow it to work the other direction? When Interpreter sees you as lovable, when Mr. Great-Heart lends you a hand, when Watchful tirelessly chauffeurs you every week without expectation of reward, when a friend drives out to pick you up from a disastrous train ride because that’s what friends do, why is this unacceptable? Do you not hear God’s voice assuring you that you are every bit as much His beloved as the friend who wept when you took an extra day to pack boxes with her?
Reader, we are so lovingly held. May God give us both the heart to understand that it is okay to rest there.
Yahweh is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer, even mine; God, my rock, in him will I take refuge; my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my high tower, and my refuge…The word of Yahweh is tried; He is a shield to all those who take refuge in him. For who is God, save Yahweh? Who is a rock, save our God? (2 Samuel 22:2-3, 31-32, WEB)