Lord, show me what You love about them

Lord, show me what You love about them

I apologize if it seems like I can’t get over this whole “belovedness” thing. (In truth, I never really want to get over this renewed revelation.) Perhaps the first step is acknowledging our own role as beloved of the Father, but there is another step that follows. It involves seeing how others are beloved children of God, too.

The end of the school year probably isn’t the best time to start deeply considering how my students are uniquely loved by God. However, their behavior is making it necessary for survival. Sophomores are getting more squirrelly and seniors are D.O.N.E. Mentally, most of them are a long ways into summer break, which makes teaching them an exercise in charity. And patience. And forbearance. And long-suffering love. You get the picture.

Last week, I was barely surviving. Tension was high and I felt stressed about several things. Add to that the attitudes and antics of students and I was waking up with stress headaches that lasted throughout the day, pretty much the whole week. Obviously, the Lord doesn’t desire that sort of life for me. It led me to wonder: Lord, what are you doing here?

Frequently on my mind was that familiar title of John as the one whom Jesus loves. Delving into my own belovedness was a good refresher, but it had to also be drawn into seeing the students’ belovedness.

Certain students cause more stress and so I prayed, “Lord, help to see ______________ as your beloved child.” There wasn’t a magical shift as I prayed this about a few different students, but it did make me start wondering. What does the Lord particularly love about these people? I wonder if I can see it, too.

Continue reading “Lord, show me what You love about them”
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The Beloved One

The Beloved One

Is John the most arrogant of all the disciples?

Throughout the Gospel of John, essentially whenever John refers to himself, he doesn’t use his name. Instead, he says “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” At first glance, it might seem like pure arrogance, pride over the fact that John was one of the “inner three” Jesus drew particularly close to Himself.

Or it might be something else entirely.

When I discuss this title with my students, they are a bit surprised that John refers to himself as the beloved disciple. But then I try to draw their attention to the other claims John could have made.

John, the only disciple at the foot of the cross.
John, the one who leaned his head near the heart of Jesus and sat next to Him at the Last Supper.
John, the disciple who arrived first to the tomb after the Resurrection (because he ran faster than Peter).
John, the youngest of the disciples.
John, the one to whom Jesus entrusted His mother.

What do we see instead? John, the one whom Jesus loved.

There are several unique roles that John played, but when writing the account of Jesus, he chooses to simply be known by the fact that Jesus loved him. More than everything else, the love of Jesus is the most precious to John. He is the beloved disciple.

Contrary to what we might think initially, his belovedness is not in conflict with anyone else’s belovedness. It isn’t John, the one Jesus loved more than all others or to the exclusion of all others. It is simply: John, beloved by Jesus.

It is a title we could all claim.

Is that what I see first, though: my belovedness?

Continue reading “The Beloved One”

From One Miserable Sinner to Another

From One Miserable Sinner to Another

Turning the other cheek, bearing wrongs patiently, and choosing to be kind in moments of anger are all well and good when thought of in the abstract. In the particular moment when any of these are called for, a flood of excuses and defenses are more likely to come to mind rather than the goodness of following the Lord.

I try really hard to not let any personal dislike of students color our overall relationship. Some people are just harder to love and students are no different. I am well aware that I am not the easiest person to get along with for all people and all personality types. The same is true with the people seated in my classroom each and every day.

It is hard, however, when I make great attempts to overlook personal slights, strive to forget previous negative encounters in the pursuit of answering present questions, and other like situations, only to discover that they already don’t like me. That instead of seeing how I try to patiently attend to their present concerns despite the fact that they repeatedly laugh at me, they only see that I have not always responded favorably toward them.

A flood of defenses came to my mind. I replay the conversations over in my mind and I wonder if I had said this instead of that, perhaps it would have been received better. Or, if I’m feeling particularly cantankerous, I’ll think of all the sharp barbs I could have thrown or the harsh yet true things I could have said but did not. It isn’t a one time occurrence, but each time it happens, it strikes me anew.

It seems unfair and it seems unjust. And perhaps it is both.

Welcome to the end of Holy Week.

Tonight, we will eat the Last Supper with Our Lord and then follow Him into the garden to wait. Tomorrow, we will walk the road to Calvary and we will, despite our best intentions, cry for Christ to be crucified. On Holy Saturday, we will wait in the awkward tension between the death of Jesus and His subsequent Resurrection. It is in the light of the Triduum, these holiest of days, that I consider the small inconvenience of being misunderstood by students.

Continue reading “From One Miserable Sinner to Another”

Unplanned

Unplanned

My younger sister, parents, and I went and watched the movie Unplanned. It is the true story of Abby Johnson, who went from Planned Parenthood clinic director to pro-life advocate shortly after being called in to assist with an ultrasound guided abortion. I had heard many things about the movie, most of them about how sad it was or how it had the ability to change hearts and minds.

I thought it gave an accurate portrayal of the positives and negatives of both the pro-life and the pro-choice side. (Note: I use the terms pro-life and pro-choice because those are generally what each side wants to be called and if I want to engage in a genuine conversation, I don’t start off by alienating them over a title.) Not all pro-lifers are compassionate figures who reach out in love to assist women. Similarly, not all pro-choicers are concerned only about the money behind abortion. The situation is more complex than a simple good people vs. evil people.

During my time outside an abortion clinic in Pittsburgh, I saw some of each type of person depicted in the movie. I saw people who loved the men and women entering the clinic so much they endured hours of standing in the cold and being cruelly mocked by the pro-choice escorts. Yet I also saw pro-life people yelling at abortionists that they are baby killers who are going to burn in Hell or that the women will for having an abortion. While there, I encountered people who genuinely thought abortion was the best option for some women and thus volunteered their Saturday mornings to assist these women. I also met pro-choicers who were extremely hardened, who intentionally pushed into me when I tried to talk to the women, who stood in circles as they joked about physically harming those of us who were praying.

It is because of my time spent at the abortion clinic in Pittsburgh that I watched Unplanned and didn’t think it was as difficult to take in as some people had said it would be. No, I didn’t enjoy watching it, but I had already watched countless women, escorted by best friends, boyfriends, husbands, and parents, walk passed me and into an abortion clinic. I saw women slowly walk out of the clinic after they had their abortions. The reality is far harder to take in than watching a movie about it, as powerful as the movie may be.

Continue reading “Unplanned”

Making a Mountain Out of a Molehill and Back Again

Making a Mountain Out of a Molehill and Back Again

Sometimes, I do stupid things.  Sometimes, I make small, insignificant situations into large problems.  That seems foolish, but then sometimes I turn around and make a big deal of the little thing I made a big deal of.

Because: logic isn’t always my strong suit when it comes to feelings.

A situation at school that I could, and should, have handled better, snowballed into something more than it ever should have been.  Yet when it reached its conclusion, I found myself quickly sliding into annoyance with myself over the entire situation.

“Trish, really?  You let a little thing become so much bigger than it logically should have been.  This is your sixth year and you are in charge of the department.  Shouldn’t you know better?”

Maybe, I should have.  But that isn’t what happened.

Instead, I experienced a situation where I didn’t do the best.  It is even more self-defeating, though, to beat myself up over the situation.  I would thereby perpetuate the problem.  In the scheme of my day, this was a small matter and I shouldn’t give it more weight by focusing more time and energy on how I mismanaged the problem. Continue reading “Making a Mountain Out of a Molehill and Back Again”

Snow and Humanity

Snow and Humanity

I love what snow does to humanity.

Granted, I am not a fan of driving in snow, but I get a strange exhilaration from the experience.  In the midst of snow or after a heavy snowfall, I find myself willing humanity to work together.  Even though difficulties can sometimes bring out the worst in us, it can also bring out the best in us.  Last night, I encountered people driving cautiously and courteously.  People were more patient as their fellow drivers struggled to stop at lights or took a couple extra seconds to gain traction.

The snow forces me to be concerned about the other, even if for nothing other than my own self-preservation.  I am particularly aware of how far their vehicle is from mine or what I can do to make their commute home a little easier.  Instead of only being concerned if I get through the light, I am instead considering what will be best for those with whom I share the road.  It is good for humanity to experience the gift of working with each other for the good of all. Continue reading “Snow and Humanity”

Paper Jams and Patience

Paper Jams and Patience

It was definitely a first world problem.  Still at school when I wanted to be at home, I was printing off tests for the following day.  The lovely printer (that a couple years ago I found incredible because it could print double-sided, staple, and three-hole punch documents) was now testing my patience.

The printer would spit out a few copies, stop, and then flash a message saying that it had a paper jam.  I opened the main compartment, pulled out three pieces of paper in various stages of the printing process, and forcefully closed the panel.  Then I opened a lower paper tray and pulled out another piece of crumpled paper.  The printer resumed its job.

For a couple copies at least.  Then the process repeated itself.  I was tired and wanted to be at home, not fixing paper jam after paper jam on a printer.  Generally, I consider myself to be a fairly patient person.  But this was testing my resolve.  I needed just a few more copies before the job was completed, and I didn’t want to spend my time throwing away crumpled pieces of paper.

So, Lord, what can you be teaching me in this?

Sadly, I must assure you that this is not my go-to question.  I’m not walking around, constantly seeing the Lord’s hand in everything.  But every now and then, the Lord will remind me that He is present and will shine through in the midst of some mundane activity.  Like changing a light bulb or fixing a paper jam. Continue reading “Paper Jams and Patience”

Love never ends

Love never ends

“Why would the Lord be frustrated with you?  What would that accomplish?” my spiritual director asked me during our last meeting.

While I had spent days being frustrated with myself (and assuming the Lord was, too), I had never looked at it in quite that light.  And in some ways, I didn’t want to.  It was easier to assume that the Lord was throwing up His hands and sadly shaking His head in my direction.

“Why would He be frustrated with you?”

Because it seems like He should be.  I am–why wouldn’t He be? Continue reading “Love never ends”

Tireless

The Lord isn’t tired of you.

If He hasn’t tired of me, then I know He isn’t tired of you.

Don’t we sometimes assume He is, though?

I apply human attributes to God and figure He must want to respond to me as I want to respond: grabbing me by the shoulders, slightly shaking me, and telling me to snap out of it.  Or something along those lines, sometimes more or less intense.

He is unfailingly patient.  God is able to endure our imperfections better than we are.  Where we can be short-tempered and over hasty, God is slow and long-suffering.  I think I am a fairly patient person, but at times I am the most impatient with myself.

He waits for us.

It is a struggle to extend that same act of kindness to myself.  To wait for my heart to catch up, to wait for my mind to grasp the concept, to wait for my body to gain the strength.  We want it right now and we think we should be able to conquer all now.  Sometimes, though, we need to accept that we are in a specific place.  Instead of being angry with my heart, I can acknowledge where it is struggling and be patient with it.  Instead of frustration over what my body can’t now accomplish, I can see the difficulties and move forward gradually.

The heart is probably the most difficult for me to wait for.  I want it to quickly recover or never get wounded.  The Lord, in His inscrutable wisdom, gave me a heart that is very tender.  And life can be pretty rough on such a heart.  Having a tender heart isn’t a coveted aspect in our culture.  Instead, we are taught to not care what others think, to do our own thing, and to take whatever doesn’t kill you and let it make you stronger.  But sometimes it just hurts.  So I find myself fighting against the desire to shield my heart behind indifference or coldness.  Or I use my best-learned defense: sarcasm.

I will fight, nearly to the death, in defense of sarcasm being a valid sense of humor.  When used in the right situations, I think it is fantastic.  However, I will admit that I use it to shield my little heart all too often.  If my heart can’t handle the pain of honesty or sincerity, it will hide behind quick remarks and witty comebacks.  In the moment, it is a fight or flight instinct and I guess I choose both: fly away with the tender heart and fight with words of steel.  I know that it will not help my heart, but sometimes the conditioning takes over with little regard to what I should do.

The goal is to tell myself, “Trish, today you will not hide your hurt behind sarcasm.  You will be sincere and meaningful in your words.  And you, impatient one, will be patient with your own heart.  It is a gift.”  Perhaps, someday, I will listen to myself.

I need to be reminded that God sees me in a way that is different than I would initially imagine.  In Isaiah 43: 4-5a, God speaks to Israel of a love that is unsurpassed by any other.  It can be helpful to remember that this covenantal love also extends to us today.

Because you are precious in my sight, and honored, and I love you, I give people in return for you, nations in exchange for your life.  Do not fear, for I am with you…

He is present, long-suffering, patient, and waiting for you.  Not for you to drag your feet, but for you to let all the many conflicted parts of yourself come together.  To wait for your heart to catch up to where the situation requires it be and to not be frustrated that it isn’t there yet.  To remind the head that there is more to life than what makes complete sense.  God is working in the midst of your broken chaos right now and He isn’t letting it stop Him from doing what needs to be done.

Though He is moving forward in your life, He isn’t leaving any part of you behind.  Because despite all of it (the situations, the emotions, the problems, the pride, etc.), He isn’t tired of you.