The Gift of Too Many Homes and Good Health

The Gift of Too Many Homes and Good Health

While personal difficulties can be genuine, regardless of their large-scale importance, sometimes it is helpful to put them in perspective. The Lord cares about what I care about and so I try to be careful to not dismiss hurt feelings, stress, or joy simply because it isn’t life altering. Yet when I do feel overwhelmed or a bit shaken, it can help to focus on the aspects for which I can be grateful.

There are two recent examples that come to mind. The first is my living situation. Currently, I am in the process of moving into a new house, but I am not quite moved in yet. Over the past couple weeks, I have stayed mostly at my parents’ house in the country and sometimes with friends who live in town. It isn’t that difficult of a life, but the slight upheaval of transitional homes adds a bit of extra stress to the day-to-day life.

Yet when I was sharing this stress with a few different people over the last couple of days, I was struck by the fact that I am not homeless. In fact, it is the opposite. I have an abundance of homes–there is the home I am working to move into, my parents’ home where I have my own bedroom when I stay there, and friends who generously offer a room to me when needed. The added stress I feel is real, but the things I can be grateful for far surpass the inconvenience.

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Deo Gratias

“We don’t actually think you’re crazy.” 

I smiled at that as the student walked out the door.  While I wasn’t extremely worried that they thought I was, there was a moment today when I wondered if I had pushed them over the edge. 

We were finishing up a PowerPoint from yesterday about Purgatory and someone asked a question that related to saints, although I’m not quite certain what it was at the time.  The saint they used as an example was St. Anthony.  Oftentimes I don’t share personal stories with them for a few reasons but today one instantly came to mind.

“I got in a fight with St. Anthony once.”

They looked up at me, puzzlement chiseled into their features.

“When I was younger my mom always told us to pray to St. Anthony if I lost something.  So I would pray that he would help me find my overdue library book.  And he would.  One month later after I already bought the book.  So I finally got mad at him and told him I wasn’t going to pray to him anymore.  And so we didn’t talk for a while.”

“Wait…you and your mom?  Or you and St. Anthony?”

“St. Anthony.”

I looked at their faces.  They wore a bemused expression but they were all paying attention and seemed interested.

“You guys think I’m crazy.”  The entire class laughed.  I knew that telling them about a close relationship with a saint (i.e. a physically dead person) probably didn’t strike them as the most normal thing.  But the positive thing is that theology teachers can get away with crazy things and the students just chalk it up to their faith.

“Anyway, I started talking to him again and now he helps me find things all of the time.  St. Anthony is great!”

The PowerPoint presentation continued and I put the incident out of my mind.  While they are one of my favorite classes they also are often the least productive.  The interesting story of St. Anthony was replaced with a frustration that they weren’t working on their assignment but seemed to be talking about everything but theological matters.  Yet when that student told me that they didn’t really think I was crazy, the frustration melted away and I had an “I’m glad I’m a teacher” gushing of emotions.  Of course, it isn’t the easiest thing to do and sometimes I want to give up, but it does have moments of joy and gratitude.

Some of my sophomores even claim that they wish they were me.  I was rather shocked by that statement but then I realized it was induced by my close proximity to their conversation and their combined frustrations over school, tests, and homework.  “I wish I was you, Miss ——”  Instantly my weekly life flashed before my eyes and I was firmly convinced that if they knew my life, they would be immediately grateful for their own.  Late nights grading papers, frantic test-writing, suppers with the parents, euphoria over Friday nights that end in an early bedtime…yes, they would sprint back to their current lives if they knew much more.  Their claim that I didn’t have any homework to do was the added cherry to the top.  Despite my vehement internal opposition to their claims, I had to laugh at the naivete of my lovely sophomores.

I like my life.  It may appear boring or mundane to others.  But it has a fair amount of joy and blessings mixed in with the suffering and trials.  Too often we are in a state of discontent.  I want to just thank the Lord right now for this moment of contentment.  For the sunshine outside, the weekend languidly spread before me, the empty classroom that was just occupied by so many beautiful, wandering, searching young souls, the jeans of a dress down day, the love of friends and family, the imminent Sacrifice of the Mass, and the knowledge that someday all of this will end and what will replace it will be infinitely better. 

Deo gratias. 

Gratitude for Being Unfulfilled

I realized that I should be grateful for my frustrations and unfulfilled desires.  When I present my experiences teaching to some of my friends, I feel as though it is an endless litany of dislikes, discouragement, and downfalls.  I don’t mean for it to be that way but I am unable to paint a purely rosy picture of a profession that I find difficult and stretching.  Yet I realized that in some ways it is very good that I am not content with it all.  I desire to do better, to improve my teaching, to reach out to my students.  And while this means that I am not a perfect teacher it also means that I desire to do better than I am doing.  Of course there is the necessary reminder that one shouldn’t always be frustrated and unfulfilled.  But I desire such great things for my students and their souls that I am far too weak to deliver on my own.  Thus, the tension.  I long for greatness but fall into petty worries.  I search for fulfillment but am left unsatisfied.  I will never be completely fulfilled on earth.  Only in Heaven will I find fulfillment for all of my good desires.  Nevertheless, I yearn for this fulfillment, for this unobtainable perfection.  We are trying to get back to something we once had, to something for which we were created.

“The sweetest thing in all my life has been the longing — to reach the Mountain, to find the place where all the beauty came from — my country, the place where I ought to have been born. Do you think it all meant nothing, all the longing? The longing for home? For indeed it now feels not like going, but like going back.”  –C.S. Lewis Till We Have Faces

Such beauty!  Anyway, the point of all of this is that it is alright to not feel fulfilled and satisfied.  We live in an imperfect world within an imperfect society.  There is much to see in the world that needs change and transformation.  My students will be imperfect because they are human and I will be imperfect because I, too, am a human.  We are deeply flawed.  Ah, but not beyond redemption!  I shouldn’t glory in my misery or disappointments.  Nevertheless, I don’t need to attempt to make myself believe that I should be 100% fulfilled and satisfied.  There is conversion that needs to take place in my heart, I am a pilgrim traveling down the path of life, and I have not yet reached my eternal home.

The task of evangelizing the modern world is not easy.  It isn’t easy because we are asking them to accept truth that is difficult to accept.  Because we are telling people that perhaps the best thing for them is a life that includes suffering and painful growth and sacrifice.  Yet I am thankful that the Lord has called me into this mission field and desires me try to reach His flock.  It isn’t because I’m perfect–because He knows better than any my imperfections–but perhaps simply because I have this desire for His will to be done on earth, a longing for Heaven, and a knowledge that without Him, I am nothing.