Perhaps this will simply reveal my vast flaws as a Christian, but teaching seems to highlight difficulties that I never noticed before. I know that it is difficult to love others. I’ve done Totus Tuus, I’ve been a part of a family, I’ve done mission trips, and I’ve driven on the interstate. Love is difficult.
Teaching high school has brought a whole new aspect to the “Love is difficult” mantra. I find myself unable to love firmly. While I don’t enjoy it, I can be tough and strict with my students. And when I want to (sometimes when I don’t want to), I can be a push-over and let them get away with things. What I have yet to perfect (after an entire 6 months of teaching) is the art of loving firmly. To maintain order and get things accomplished while yet being kind and loving.
If we are speaking of a battle of the wills, I can fight them to the death. But (luckily) I realized fairly early on that it would be in my best interest to not make my entire profession into a battle of wills. So I have to decide when to be stubborn and when to give a little. That is still a matter that is difficult to master. Yet regardless of that battle, I need to be charitable. I need to be Christian. I teach high school students and at times I can feel myself desiring to play at their level. My feelings are hurt when they fall asleep in class, do homework for another class, roll their eyes, dismiss my ideas, and attempt to cast doubt on every aspect of the faith. Instead of being mature, I want to roll my eyes back at them and spit out a couple perfectly formed sarcastic retorts.
If Christ taught the Gospel of love it would seem that I should be quite proficient in it, seeing as I am teaching about Christ. But teaching has revealed to me all sorts of weaknesses that I didn’t know I had or that I had thought were sufficiently concealed. How would this be my mission field if I didn’t begin to see my failings and question why God placed me where He did? I have had to remind myself several times (I should do this more, perhaps) that while God could have placed someone in my position with more knowledge and skill, He placed me here for some reason. There is some way that He wants me to grow from this experience. Growth hurts, it is painful. Yet the reward is far sweeter due to the bitterness and pain. I think of intelligent people I know (priests, nuns, lay people) and I question why I have been given the task of instructing the youth in the faith. There are so many who could do such a better job. Maybe this is largely the task for my sanctity, as well as their sanctity.
If teaching is my mission field, then I need to reveal Christ to them primarily through my personal Gospel of Love. How can I convince them of the radical love of Christ if they don’t experience love from me? Ah, the mission field! I find myself dreaming of returning to “my” Honduras–a place I grew and loved. But the Lord blessed me in those mission trips and made them so beautiful and easy. Now He is sending His little daughter into the “grown-up” missionary field of a high school. The commitment is longer, the results seem less tangible, and the people I am ministering to don’t realize it/aren’t thankful. Quite a change from Hondurans eager to welcome us and sacrifice food and rooms for us. But the Lord has this beautiful way of easing us into things. He will give us sweetness and then bitterness to test our motives.
So I go into this mission field with a heart deficient in love yet deeply desiring to excel in it. What would a mission be without challenges? Perhaps life is a constant learning how to love–whether it is God or neighbor. We fail but we continue to try. Because we were made for, by, and in Love. Since we have received much we must go and give that to others. Starting with that which is nearest to our hearts, which hurts the most to give when we know it may be rejected. This battle is where I can learn to be most like Christ–being willing to love even when pushed away, rejected, crucified. As St. Paul Miki and companions died heroically for the faith, so I am called to be martyred daily for my faith. Impossible on my own. But I know a great Teacher who can show me how.
We love, because He first loved us. ~ 1 John 4:19
St. Paul Miki and Companions, pray for us!