March 28, 2017
At the sound of the bell I fled in frustration. “Failure,” I sighed. Far too often, that word associates itself with this particular class. It was one of those days. But today I knew that I bore the weight of this failure. Sure, they were their usual moody, and unmotivated, adolescent selves; but I was the one who, shortly into the block, felt my own motivation dwindle. By the end of the first half hour, I had pretty much given up on inspiring them to learn this lesson.
Feeling the weight of that knowledge, I began to question my own assumptions about work. I think I have always assumed that the older I get, and the more experience I gain, the better I will be at any given job. But recently, I am wondering if I’m actually getting any better at this teaching gig. No matter how many techniques I try to incorporate, or how many pep talks I give myself, I can’t seem to pull myself up by the bootstraps from this general malaise when it comes to my job. The moments of joy just stay moments, while the daily grind stays dreary.
This was the state in which I began my afternoon swim, with an ache and a longing for comfort. I wished I had a functioning MP3 player, missing my daily audio Bible readings. But instead I started to breath out prayers at each exhale, so I could actually hear my audible “groans” bubbling out before my head came up for air at each stroke.
A talk I had recently heard on Faith Conversations came to mind, in which Mike McHargue (of the podcasts Ask Science Mike and The Liturgists) spoke of his conversion experience to, and then out of, atheism. When explaining his process of coming to terms with his personal faith, he mentioned that, for all of his evangelical church training, his scientific and cosmological studies, and his apologetics (both Christian and atheistic), when it came down to it, his faith was prayer. Period.
I decided to spend this swimming time pursuing prayer, in a way that would go beyond my usual “arrow” or daily life prayers. One of my recent prayers has been a sort of “Speak, Lord.” I envision Samuel when I say this, sometimes adding, “your servant is listening.” I struggle, though, with the apparent lack of “speech” that I get in return. “How can I really know if God is speaking to me?,” I wonder. Today I grew more bold. What if God really talked to me right now, while I am swimming? If I have enough faith, will He talk to me?
As often happens when I am doing anything meditative, I began to “sing” [kinda hard to actually sing underwater ;-)] lines from songs that came to mind. I was in the middle of “Those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength . . .” when another song popped into my head. An old high school favorite—“40,” by U2. I began to go through the lyrics to this one: “I waited patiently for the Lord. He inclined and heard my cry. He brought me up out of the pit. Out of the mire and clay. I will sing, sing a new song . . .” Then tears sprang to my eyes, blurring my already foggy-goggle vision. That was what I needed to hear. Hope returned. It then occurred to me that I had just jumped from one “wait” song to another. I tried to think of all the verses that spoke of this word but my memory didn’t do that well at coming up with a list. I did, however, settle into those two songs for the remainder of my swim. And I also felt certain that God had indeed spoken to me just then—and that what He said was “wait.”
Wait for what? I don’t know.
Maybe it was for the little one who started to tug on me each time I passed her, shouting out “Auntie—hello!” Turns out she was just an overly extroverted youngster who continued to talk to me in the pool (about how she was watching me swim my deep end laps while she tried to get to the other side of the shallow end) and then in the changing room (“Auntie—why is there a shower in here?” Um, I don’t know. “There’s a shower out there and one in here . . .” her voice trailing off as she walked out to investigate other strangenesses).
Maybe it was for the memory of another class today, after which I had a completely unexpected chat with a high schooler who didn’t see anything wrong with legalizing prostitution. I told him of stories I’ve heard from friends who work with sex trafficking victims, and I explained my perspective on it. He was clearly ignorant about bits of knowledge I simply take for granted, and it struck me that I was in the right place at the right time. It was a rare occurrence of heartfelt (not just head) knowledge that I was, in fact, doing some good in this teaching gig.
Maybe . . .