Monday, June 4, 2012

The Waves That Greet Me Each Morning

Tomorrow I begin my last week of teaching this academic year. The following week I and other 9th grade teachers have arranged a "Health Week" where all freshmen will work in teams to create a proposal about a health  issue to present to a panel of judges from the community. It will be a great way to end the year. But this week each of them must focus on finishing their letters advocating about a health issue they researched to persaude their audience with a "call to action." This is project based learning, this is social justice education, and this is amazing for kids from our community to be  engaged in. It is also taxing for teachers to equip them for. In August I began student teaching at this school. Though I finished in April, I came back two weeks ago as a long term sub until the end of the school year. Looking ahead to tomorrow morning, I thought of something I wrote in January, when I had just taken over teaching all the classes and creating my own curriculum for them. A friend asked me how I was doing. I replied, "I feel like I wake up each day trying to stem the tide". She asked me to explain, and I wrote this piece:


Stemming the Tide

My dream is interrupted by a foreign sound
that transports me to an ocean
and unleashes the familiar tides of each day’s pressures
They relentlessly rush toward me, over me, through me
They are so overpowering, so loud, so disorienting
I curl up
Into my blankets out of habit for safety
As I am tossed, turned and churned
Not wanting to face them,
Not wanting to be reminded of how futile it feels
to reach out and fight

They taunt me, these waves,
With their chaotic currents of the day’s responsibilities
That push me down with their demands
Leaving me struggling, straining, suffocating
For air, for life

Some days I get the courage to stem the tide
I stretch and bend and twist
to become whoever I need to be
to fulfill the responsibilities, to master the tasks
to break through their wake
long enough to hear my own voice in the midst of their deafening cries
to have some peace before the next set rolls in
Its roar can seem quiet and small from a distance
Yet they become a pounding torrent so quickly

Sometimes I am prepared and in pride feel like I can ride the waves
Because I have worked especially hard to get on top
because some waves are smaller than others
because I am blind to a larger one developing
I grow weary of warping my body back and forth
To ride what does not want to be ridden

But most days I am not prepared and in desperation I cry out to God
Knowing that only he is big enough
To conquer and tame the storms
To silence the roar of the waves,
To subdue the pounding torrents
Only he has the right and power to tell me
Who I am and who I am called to be

I pull back my blanket
The Sun is out and is making me warm
Inviting me to not simply get through the day
But to enjoy it
It is quiet now because there was a voice louder than the noise
That calls me by my name instead of titles
I am safe to stand up,
to stretch and step into another day

The waves are still there yet seem smaller
The waters are too complex for me to know
Yet alone control
He is shaping and guiding each one
To reveal my strengths and weakness and reform them
To unmask my fears and dreams and redirect them
Risks remain of course yet all is not lost when I fail
When I fall I am not alone
I am slowly learning to hear his voice each morning
To call out when I am tempted to even try
To stem the tide that greets me

Beyond the pressure of teaching, I feel additional pressures of "shoulds" - things I should be involved in, supporting or helping. I love encouraging people in pursuing their dreams, processing their journey and pointing them to Jesus. I enjoy helping them think through ideas but often don't view that as "help" unless I also physically participate in carrying out those ideas. Though I may not physically be present feeding the homeless, helping neighbors with their yard, cleaning a friend's house as they move or counseling university students, I will invest time and energy mentally and emotionally processing all these things in addition to issues with my faith, family and friends. These "shoulds" become taxing and draining. In the past month I have had a few friends remind me that my support by listening to and engaging in their ideas is a gift in and of itself; that often that kind of caring is more unique and welcome than simply doing tasks. I am learning to remove the distractions of "what if" in order to focus on "right here, right now" Or to recycle a quote I made for myself in college: "Don't let good things prevent better things" Graduate school and teaching has  forced me to say "no" to a lot this past year. It has been hard but also freeing. I know myself better, both my gifts and my joys, which refreshes my soul to both run and rest as the waves of life rise and fall.

No comments:

Post a Comment