Tonight is beautiful. As I type this I am sitting in my living room surrounded by wonderful friends turned roommates and co-workers, candles that remain lit from an episode of no electricity, christmas music (yes, you heard right! always an instant mood booster for me, and besides, why not celebrate God’s decision to be present among, when LOVE became flesh, all year round?), a cup of hot peppermint tea, and the sound of children playing outside. Truly I feel at peace. God is faithful!
Today is my second Saturday as a teacher which means I have survived two weeks as a high school math teacher. This thought amazes me when I really think about it. A couple weeks back, before we started school, I read the story of Gideon in Judges 6 and 7. These verses tell the familiar stories of Gideon setting out the fleece to ask God for a sign of his presence and God thinning the number of warriors he would use to fight the Mideonites down to 300 by having them drink water from a stream. While reading these verses though, it wasn’t the stories that I noticed but the conversation God had with Gideon. This is what I read(emphasis added):
Ch 6:13 “Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but if the LORD is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all his wonders that our ancestors told us about when they said, ‘Did not the LORD bring us up out of Egypt?’ But now the LORD has abandoned us and given us into the hand of Midian.”
14 The LORD turned to him and said, “Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand. Am I not sending you?”
15 “Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.”
16 The LORD answered, “I will be with you, and you will strike down all the Midianites, leaving none alive.”
Ch 7:2-3 God said to Gideon, “You have too large an army with you. I can’t turn Midian over to them like this—they’ll take all the credit, saying, ‘I did it all myself,’ and forget about me.
Perhaps the correlation between Gideon’s experience and mine seems obvious but I would like to take it to another level.
This is my story: 5 years ago I went to Bolivia looking for God. In my mind, leaving everything known to commit a year to following God would mean losing everything familiar that I relied on, so that God would be all I had…all I needed. I really believed in the power of love and of “being with” the hurting and vulnerable. I came back from Bolivia really wondering where God was. I thought God must have abandoned us because I saw such brokenness there. What to me was horrific and unacceptable had been normal for the kids that I worked with who came from places of abuse and neglect. And although the children were taken out of their homes, abuse did not stop. As much as I would like to say otherwise, child on child abuse happened. I still feel sick at the reality they face and the up hill road these children will have to face to stop the cycle of abuse.
Like I said, I went to Bolivia to find God and I am not going to say that God was absent because that would be a lie, but I will say that I felt very alone. I had this glorified idea about what relying on God felt like. I thought I would feel secure, and confident, and prayerful, and thankful. What I felt was anger, and fear, and frustration, and my heart breaking. I was a mother to kids with STD’s that they contracted from sexual abuse; a mother to children whose parents did not want them. One time three siblings were brought to the home temporarily until the parents could be found. When the mother came to pick them up she told the eldest that she hated her and did not want her, that she loved the other two but not her. I wanted so badly for Jesus to hold these kids and love them and tell them they were wanted, to wash away any guilt or feelings of shame and make them feel safe, to heal them. But it does not just work like that. God, for some reason, chooses to use us and so experiencing God became something entirely different than what I had imagined.
I did not see a rainbow for the first couple of months I was there, even though it rained almost daily. I thought it was fitting because I was always told that rainbows are God’s sign that he is faithful and that he keeps his promises. And to be honest, I did not see a faithful God in Bolivia; I saw an absent one. I remember thinking, maybe God does not keep his promises here, maybe he knows how hypocritical it would be to let a rainbow shine through. One day though, after the rain, the sun came out and one of the biggest, brightest rainbows I have ever seen shone through. I was walking back from the park with some of the kids and we admired it a bit as we continued to walk home. I know that God was and is there at the home. I know that he is there in their pain. And even though I don’t see it, he is working, cleaning, making right, making whole, because he is a God who brings life. And although my time in Bolivia was very painful for me and I am traumatized from it, even though I wished to leave and railed against God for the injustices I saw, even though I sometimes doubt God’s involvement there, I know that God is. And, for whatever reason, he needed me to be his arms for that year.
Still, since coming back 4 years ago, I have really struggled with trusting God. The wonderful thing though is that this is NOT my defining story. This small piece of story fits into the broader story, God’s story. Thank goodness God’s story doesn’t end where mine does but he continues to write. His story does not fit within mine, I fit within his. And his promise is this: Behold, I make all things new! (Rev. 21) So do not fear,for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. (Isaiah 21) I will show my love to the one I called ‘Not my loved one’. I will say to those called ‘Not my people,’You are my people’; and they will say, ‘You are my God.’” (Hosea 2) He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes, or decide by what he hears with his ears; but with righteousness he will judge the needy, with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth. He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth; with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked. Righteousness will be his belt and faithfulness the sash around his waist. (Isaiah 11)
This is my defining story!
I could say “I am not trained to teach high school, or mathematics for that matter. I have very little, as far as experience goes, to offer in the way of starting a school.” And it would be true! But God seems to be telling me the same thing he told Gideon “Go. I am sending you. I will be with you.” And maybe my inexperience is the very thing that he will use to bring glory to himself. Because I can take no credit for our success saying “Look, I did it myself”. Every success is His and He is faithful!
So celebrate and worship God with me because God has been very successful these past two weeks!
- We are getting such positive feedback from the community. A community that originally questioned our abilities and doubted our sincerity.
- I am making relationships with students. Last week we had a project where they wrote about how schools in Albania are different from our school. What I heard over and over from students was that LAC is different because they can tell the teachers care about them and respect them. We are consistent and value their ideas and opinions. Yesterday we had an after school activity where we got to play capture the flag with students. It was a fun time to get to know them out of the classroom!
- I am also somehow teaching high school math. I am really not sure how this happens everyday. The students are still learning what it means to be students in a classroom setting but they are very motivated! I am blessed.