Friday, January 24, 2014

Thundergrace Five-fold

You know what gets me so mad?

Every time I try to pour into another person, I end up getting blessed double what I have tried to give. 

This is just so infuriating. 

I’ve been not necessarily in a funk, but I’ve been terrible homesick. I know I have no reason to be; I had a visit from home, for goodness sake. I have all the comforts of modern living, I want for nothing, and I really do love this place! Sincerely! 

So each morning, I laugh at my sleepy face in the mirror, I play my happy music, I greet the day with a smile, and I hope that this will be the day I stop counting the weeks until I can walk around the reservoir woods or squint my eyes at Block Island on the horizon. Maybe this will be the day I am one-minded to the icy ground I stand on.  

It’s funny that the only time I’m not thinking about how many weeks are between me and Logan airport is when I’m teaching. He knows the depth of my pansy status and He is intimately familiar with my flabby resolve, so He’s been raining His grace to abound that much more over my mopey homesick outlook. And He’s been doing it in the place I love most, the classroom.

Thundergrace One: This week, in each of my classes, my students asked (completely and entirely out of the blue, seriously, all I was doing was sitting quietly, staring at my fingernails, because I have a commanding classroom presence, yo. #sarcasm), “Teacher, are you a Chr!stian?” And some variant of this conversation replayed with different students: “Do you believe in G0d?” and “Who is Chr!st?” I was baffled, completely flummoxed, as to why these kids were so suddenly asking these questions. It’s illegal to prosthelytize to minors, particularly from the authority of the classroom, so when I recovered from my shock I answered laconically to keep the questions coming. “See here!” it’s like He’s saying, “Of course I am on their minds!” And to be one who is given the chance to speak the powerful name of J3sus is a shining hot privilege.

Thundergrace Two: I have this one class, eighth graders, and I’ve been struggling to win them over. Each class is a bumpy ride and I leave feeling “meh” and a little bit defeated, like I have failed to do well by them. I’ve felt, a bit useless in this class. Like I’m letting these students down. At the end of one such class this week, their local English teacher tells me how she’s noticed improvement with these students and their speaking abilities since starting my class. “Thank you,” she said to me. “They are not so nervous to speak because of you.” She is a reserved and enigmatic woman, and so her praise was a delightful surprise. I think I floated out the door, I was so happy to hear this. 

Thundergrace Three: I was nevertheless dismayed because my favorite class ended this week. They were my first class ever, business English, and by some stroke of good fortune they became the most fun and cohesive classroom I’ve ever beheld. They made me look forward to the school week because I could go to class and laugh with them, and I didn’t want this semester to end. What blew my socks off though, was the realization that they had enjoyed our time together as much as I had! Our last class they brought me to tears because they presented me with a framed sketch drawn by one student and a bouquet of white roses. They took me out to dinner and promised me we were not saying good-bye, and that we would continue to meet together for fun. 

I was so humbled by their thanks and this gesture; their regard I didn’t deserve. 

Thundergrace Four: So now that business English has concluded, I’ve kicked off the new semester with my very first class of public speaking students. There were butterflies in my stomach as I stood in front of them and began to speak. What if they thought I was lame? What if they thought I was wasting their time? What if they couldn’t understand me? What if they didn’t like each other? But an hour and a half later my fears were all but quelled. I beamed as the students joked with and helped each other. I did a silent cheer when they laughed at my jokes. I was relieved when they followed my instructions with complete comprehension. It was an awesome first class, and I’m brimming with optimism over what this course could be come. 

Thundergrace Five: I went for coffee with a friend of a friend I met back in the fall. When I met her I felt as thought I was supposed to talk to her, and so we exchanged contact information and made those sallow promises to meet, and, I never followed through. At my sister’s prompting (slash awesome kick in the pants speech) I . . . answered her when she texted me, and how many months after our first meeting we finally sat down and talked for hours. I left our conversation positively buoyant. This sweet girl bought me some real coffee and gave me some of the socialization I had yet to be able to find.

It makes me mad, because the infernal pride that’s slick through my soul feels as though I did nothing to bring about these good things. I’ve been a homesick stick in the mud who has only reached out to others in the most feeble and anemic sense. It’s not equitable. I should be blessing others, not be blessed by them! But there’s the small sliver of sanctification in me that is smiling with that knowing smile, murmuring, “To give abundantly is His prerogative.” I am still foolish enough to have the audacity to be surprised when I am blessed by Him. As though blessings are only earned. As though I am too accomplished for grace. 

Bet and I were talking, “We should go shopping tomorrow.” 

“Yes,” she agreed, “I could really use some retail therapy.”

“Me too,” I sighed. 

Bet laughed at this. “Why?!” The implication being that I had been having a fantastic week and ought to have been in no need of any sort of catharsis, retail or otherwise. And in that moment I saw how greedy and needy and adverse to feeling bad I am. I did not want to be cheered or comforted by the blessings I received this week.

I confessed to my Father at the start of this week, “I know You love me, but I’m struggling to accept something I’m so grossly unentitled to.” I left it at this, weakly resolving this week to bolster my faith and meditate on the truth. Instead I got hit with a tidal wave of affirmation from people (acquaintances! precious strangers!) who I thought I came here to validate. Of course I don’t deserve the support of my students and people I’ve only just met. But that’s what makes it grace, eh? Undeserved favor. And He’s dousing me with it. 

Brendan Manning writes, “The gifts are not determined by the slightest personal quality or virtue. They are pure liberality.” He gives good things, because that’s what He does. Goodness is His very nature. So I guess what I want to say is, look at all the cool things He did for me. Ebenezer. He's making it rain grace out there.

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