It’s spring here today!
This blog has changed substantially since I graduated from college almost two years ago. A week or so ago, I found myself reading back over old entries from early 2014, when I was racing through drafts of my novel and watching the world turn to spring at my feet faster than I knew it ever could. That girl poured her soul out onto the page fast and thick, in words full of inexhaustible hope.
I don’t do that anymore. Certainly, my circumstances are different now, but so is the soul I have to pour. I will do my best today, though. I will do my best.
There was some lie that I believed way back when, that teaching would feel like a success story. It does not. It feels small and long. On bad days it feels like trudging through the mud in a narrow lane. On good days it feels like removing your own internal organs, and passing them into eager, outstretched hands. I have a Wendell Berry poem by my desk which ends with that: “Every day you have less reason not to give yourself away.”
This has been a somewhat hard year for me personally. Last semester I spent quite a lot of time dreaming about what it would look like to write, just write, and have all day long with words and silence and clouds of story. At the root of that, I think, was a very private understanding with myself that my talents were not being used properly, that this job could not really be what God meant for me. Surely there had been a mistake. I was not supposed to end up like Zerubbabel, merely a name in the line of begats. I was the kind made to stand on her own.
But, of course, there is no such kind. We all have feet of clay. And with aches and pains, I have learned a good deal in the last month. February is a poignant and exacting teacher. Through a series of little failures and humiliations, grit that got under my nails and bile I had to swallow, I have come to remember: “God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise.” And now I am sitting hesitantly at the golden feet of my Lord and he is saying to me the same words he spoke over a cowering Moses: “You shall serve God on this mountain.”
That he should say this to me, when I finally deign to listen, is not what surprises me. I half-expected it all along. What surprises me is that he is a different God than I thought. My talents are not wasted in teaching, because a God like this does not want to use my talents. He wants to use my weakness (which there is plenty of). He is a God who may turn my hand leprous to show what he can do. I always say that he loves my students more than I do: well, I must let him.
And just because teaching doesn’t feel like some success story on a day-to-day basis, doesn’t mean it isn’t one. If I am willing, I can be a participant in the victory of the risen Christ. “You shall serve God” is not merely an order, but a promise. A promise that the words I speak in weariness and the lessons I teach three times over will take root, in his good time. I am small. And that is good. He has made me weak, that I may take shelter in his eternal strength.
“Lead me safely on to the eternal kingdom, not asking whether the road be rough or smooth.”