A week ago I got an e-mail from the principal of a school in Africa where I had been planning to teach two years ago. I had gotten as far as being accepted as a missionary candidate but my unresolved search for significance reared its ugly head and I decided that I would not be able (willing?) to handle such a big transition. Of course, I wound up moving to another town anyway, and the anxiety, left unchecked, eventually spiraled into depression and a mild self-implosion.
The principal wrote to ask whether I would still consider short-term missions, as they had a need for a teacher to fill at least one semester of biology while the current teacher takes time off for French study. My initial reaction, which is perhaps more important than I sometimes give it credit for, was, “Ooh, that would be fun!” But hints of emotional PTSD from the last two years quickly gave me pause.
I want to believe that I am capable of being a good teacher again under different circumstances. It is probably a distortion to think that a “good” teacher would be able to teach anything and everything under any and all circumstances, right? And as I’ve had the chance in the last two months to interact with students in a healthier capacity, I am slowly coming back to trust myself around kids, and sometimes I remember that maybe it could be enough just to be a listening ear and affirming presence. (You were right, DH…don’t rub it in.)
Someone pointed out that if I were considering a return to the classroom, this would be a valuable experience to counter what happened this school year. And I would not be horrifically opposed to teaching part-time. But I’ve been trying very hard to get away from the “What’s in it for me?” mentality on multiple levels of my life, without losing an eye to what is truly compatible with my strengths, and I think that my initial reaction of excitement speaks to a healthier level of Presence in my thoughts and emotions that would help me if I went.
Reading John this morning, a few things stuck out:
When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him “Do you want to get well?” -John 5:6
The man does not answer Jesus’ question, of course, but instead tries to explain why he has not been healed yet. Other people get in the way. I can’t get the help I need. Isn’t that the eternal danger for us all, especially for the ridiculously introspective like myself? But I love how Jesus just ignores the man’s rationalizations and says, “Dude. Get up and walk. Seriously.”
But it gets better.
When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip,“Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do. -John 6:5-6
Again, Jesus is testing the believers’ faith, and Philip sees only the very logical but very limited human perspective. And Jesus acts regardless. How assuring that God doesn’t always wait for our OK to act for our own good!
When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, “Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.” -John 6:12
Oof. Guess that answers the eternal question of my heart, “But what could you possibly want with this?”
Relentless God, indeed.