It is human nature to have favorites. As a teacher, the same holds true. I often tell my students I’m not supposed to have favorite classes or students. Several classes will guess that they are my favorite, but I can never tell them if they are correct or not. Usually, there are multiple things I appreciate about each class as well as aspects I wish they would change. Yet, as a human, I look forward to some classes more than others. Gone are my first year teacher days of feeling ill at the thought of a particular class. For a variety of reasons, some classes make me a little less excited to teach them.
A couple of weeks ago, I was facing this feeling of not looking forward to a particular class. It wasn’t dread, but I was definitely not excited for them to fill my classroom with their boisterous selves. On Tuesdays, I have “contemplative time” with my classes, ten minutes of silent prayer with a reflection or Scripture passage given as the means to enter into prayer. I’m a little dense, so it took a while, but after a few classes, I recognized that this meditation was speaking to me about that less-than-ideal class.
My dear friend, I am overjoyed to see you. I am with you speaking to you and listening to you. Realize that I am truly present. I am within your soul. Close your ears and eyes to all distractions. Retire within yourself, think my thoughts, and be with me alone.
My Other Self: Conversations with Christ on Living Your Faith*, Clarence Enzler
The word overjoyed stood out to me after several readings. Clarence Enzler wrote this book as though it is Jesus speaking directly to us, that we are Christ’s other self. After considering the beauty of Jesus being overjoyed to see me, I began to desire that this was my response for that particular class. When I come to the Lord with all my worries and failings, He is always pleased that I have entered into His presence. I want this to be my attitude toward this class. Each day, I want to be overjoyed that these particular students are coming into my classroom and sitting in my presence. Recognizing Christ dwelling within them, I want to respond to them as Christ responds to me, even with my less-than-ideal heart.
That day, spending time praying for the feeling of being overjoyed, class went better than usual. I was more excited to see them than I usually was and the often bothersome qualities were more muted that day. However, I cannot claim that I have carried this desire into every school day. I still find myself worrying a bit more about how things will go during class. Upon reflection, I catch myself thinking about just getting through class. That isn’t how I want to view that class period, but it is difficult to take each ordinary day with a sense of newness and joy.
If I’m honest, that attitude isn’t limited to this one class. In life, it is difficult to see each day as new and a source of joy. Too often I am looking forward to the next weekend, the next big event, the next holiday, or the next vacation. The routine day-to-day events seem instead to be sources of frustration, complaining, or indifference. What if I entered each day seeking new ways to encounter the Lord? I once asked a friend how he was and his reply surprised me. “Good. The Lord is new. Every day.” I found myself wishing that was the response I would feel compelled to give.
Perhaps my experience is key to understanding how a new joy could be a daily experience. My prayer started with focusing on the Lord and recognizing that He is overjoyed with my presence. After spending several minutes focusing on that reality, I was drawn to consider that the Lord’s response should also be my response. I didn’t go into prayer asking the Lord how I could love this class more. Rather, I went into prayer focused on being with the Lord and He directed my heart to what He desired me to alter. If I continue seeking the Lord for the gift of Himself, perhaps He will continue to direct my heart to the alterations I should make in order to live each day with new joy.
It is always springtime in the heart that loves God.
– St. John Vianney
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