I knew early in the week what my God experience of the week would be. Monday and Tuesday had been more trying days at work with my students. I’m sure all teachers can relate to the feeling of coming home and not really knowing what to do because we’re tired to the bone. Sure, we make meals, clean up, maybe do some marking and other routine tasks, but when it comes to the hours of relaxation before us, we are just exhausted. A certain depression can set in after we have dealt with students who have higher needs, and we lose perspective. I am prone to depression, but I know I’m not alone in this.
When I get to moments like these, I always know I can’t stay there. Working with children is a huge blessing, but it draws prayers out of me. I need continual hope like I need air and water. I prayed in the evening and especially in the morning, with my cup of coffee and scripture passage for the day. I usually ask for patience with the kids and for the virtues of kindness and wisdom as I face each challenge of the new day.
I have always been told that when we “cry out to God” (that’s how the Psalms put it), God always hears us. I believe that God even hears us if we sigh and don’t put words to our feelings. What I noticed this week was that I received a few very specific answers to my prayers for help.
One answer was a single word that came to me: God reminded me to be resilient. As a young mother years ago, I often marveled at how my own son, Joel, could be resilient in the face of change. We as parents are prone to worry. How will our kids cope with transitions and the sometimes less than optimal situations in their lives? When 9/11 happened, I remember being so worried at how growing up with the knowledge of terrorism would affect his young mind and heart. I often drew consolation from what I had been told – that kids are amazingly resilient.
“Resilience” refers to the ability to cope, and remain hopeful, even during times of adversity. It occurred to me this week that this was what I needed to exercise as well. Like putting on a jacket against the cold, I put on resilience, remembering that I could take a breath and face another day with confidence that I would receive the help I prayed for.
This one word, resilience, led to the world opening up and expanding again. I received some more, very specific answers to my prayers for help. In particular, I had an “aha” moment of insight into the challenges a certain student was facing. I literally felt like God was whispering in my ear, saying, “Why not try this approach instead?” I asked our guidance counselor and immediately was given a few pamphlets of information to guide my thoughts.
Another answer came to me as I was reminded of the old adage that difficult situations and people are sent to us to be our teachers. Instead of digging in my heels, wishing my challenges were gone, I asked the question, “What can I learn here?” and it made a huge difference in my outlook. Suddenly, I saw my student the way God sees her, as a beloved daughter with God’s image imprinted in her heart. Sometimes the challenges we face can mask that image, which is why I believe that we need to continually practice seeing with “God’s eyes”.
It was helpful during this experience to reflect on one of my favorite stories about Jesus. As part of our weekly Bible study at Watershed, we prepare by answering some questions. One question this week as we studied the gospels was, “What is one of your favorite Jesus stories?”
The feeding of the 5000 is one of my favorites. In this story, there are 5000 people gathered on a hill to
listen to Jesus’ teachings. Lunch-time rolls around and Jesus’ disciples are worried about feeding everyone. They have next to no money, and the only food is 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish from some kid in the audience. The disciples panic but Jesus calmly takes the food that was offered, gives thanks to God and blesses it, and suddenly a miracle happens. Not only is it enough to feed everyone, but there’s baskets and baskets of leftovers.
I grew up with war-affected parents who had known what it was like to lose everything. We always had enough food, but that worry about money was always there. I remember lying in bed as a kid in the ’60’s, overhearing them talk about how they were going to pay the electricity bill, and I snuck out of bed and turned out all the lights in an effort to help.
I think I love this Jesus story because its message of bounty and fecundity is so opposite to the ethos I grew up with. This story teaches that, in God’s world, “There will always be enough”. I’m blessed to know that not only will I have physical needs taken care of in my life, but that I will make it through with more than enough meaning and love. And like the meagre food that the boy in the story gave, the little that I give to God isn’t what is important, but what God does with it, touching my offering with grace and something greater than I can see.
There is a quote by Rumi (the 13th century Persian poet and Sufi mystic), which I love. He says that “Someone always fills the cup in front of us,” and for me that someone is Jesus. He’s someone I love.
I’m grateful that I was given the reminder to exercise resiliency this week. It’s a small word, like the small offering of 5 loaves and 2 fishes. Like Jesus’ disciples, I’m usually in panic mode but in God’s expansive world, that one word was more than enough to restore me to balance and open my ears to love once again.