If we were having coffee this morning I would tell you that I love this time of year, because the year, stretched out before us, firmly in the future, is full of possibilities.
Perhaps you would remember that I love to set goals, but this year as I prayerfully considered what God was calling me to, I found myself penning more general statements about how I want to live my life, Pray Audaciously. Be Gracious of Heart. Approach teaching as service and writing and learning as discipline.
A few nights ago I sat in silence, and I felt my heart racing. I felt insecure. I’m insecure, because teaching is a new experience for me this semester, and when I think about needing to prove myself, I’m crestfallen. In my heart, I’m still yearning for China, and when I think of learning and serving, I often picture being hungry and cold with people somewhere else in the world, or preaching from a pulpit in a congregation. But I sat there and I waited for a word from God, and I heard that what God’s calling me to is, “sitting at your feet, childlike, attentive, waiting. It’s being a servant,” and my heart leapt as I thought, “and even I can do that.”
Approaching teaching as service reminds me that Jesus’ teaching was never about proving himself, or even about being right, but it was wholly relational, progressive, and above the fray. And because Jesus relied on God for the balance between these qualities in teaching, his teaching was life-changing.
Yesterday as I talked through some of these fears and excitements with my spiritual director, I realized that if I could just listen to my students with love and attentiveness, if I could just learn with them, I think I’d be doing enough and serving well. In the language of servanthood, teaching becomes less about doing things right or perfectly or best, and more about regarding the people in front of me with respect, reverence, and a gracious heart, and again, I think “even I can do that.”
I would go on to tell you that I intend to sit in silence this year to listen to God more often. I would tell you that I plan to say audacious prayers for China. Somewhere along the way, I think my heart became so troubled by not being there and not being able to “do” anything, and I think deep inside me, a little part of my faith died, when it comes to the people I love there who I feel are very confined by their circumstances. But lately I’ve been remembering that God changes hearts and lives, which is pretty much the greatest path, perhaps the only, toward changing circumstances, and I’ve resolved to pray boldly for China and its people.
And finally, I would tell you that yesterday I had a meeting with a professor who somehow saw through all my meandering writings of late, that my heart lies with foster moms and disabled children, and he encouraged me not to look for ways to make my dissertation topic bigger or more important, but to trust that this small topic can become bigger and greater and more compelling than I ever imagined. It was both overwhelming and heartening to hear such critique and advice–heartening because these are the stories I collected and want to tell, and overwhelming because I need to start a bit fresh with some applications and outlines and etchings.
But it’s a new year, and what better time to start fresh, right?
What’s on your mind in 2013?