The 45th presidential election is finally over. One side has claimed a long awaited victory. The other side has suffered the agony of defeat. This race was for many a long and hard battle fought with struggles along the way. In my eyes both candidates persevered by displaying their dignity and ability to try to unify our nation. During the next few months there will still be many challenges our country will face. There will be ongoing times of grief, anger, healing and joy as new challenges arise. We all face challenges throughout our everyday lives. For most of us, no matter what the challenges are, you will become a stronger person if you allow it.
One of the biggest challenges I faced occurred in college. College was a transitional time as I entered a new and uncertain world. It was a time to foster new friendships and learn to see the world through a different lense. It was a time of self- discovery and trying to find where I belonged in this world. God was not my top priority. My daily prayers consisted of:
“God, can you please get someone to quit taking my parking spot.”
“Lord, I know I did not study for this test, but if you let me pass, I promise I will study forever.”
“Jesus, can you please send me just one date? Maybe someone that has a job or doesn’t believe The Great Gatsby is in Arizona.”
As I headed into my senior year, I was eager to begin student teaching. My college professor observed as I taught daily lessons. Life was good! Three of my roommates were also teachers, so you could imagine an apartment filled with puppets, toilet paper animals, construction paper, tape, and lots of elmers glue. Each one of us secretly owned one of the horrible teacher sweaters with a giant moose plastered on the front that our parents gave us for Christmas. I was proud of the work I was doing and happy with my new title “Miss”.
With all of the hard word and late nights studying, cutting, correcting, and lesson planning came the excitement and anticipation of being in the classroom. With the first weeks of teaching first graders, I realized a few things key things…
1. A big part of your day is Getting Drinks and Going Potty!
2. First graders need Shoes Tied all the time!
3. They love to ask Why and Did You Know repeatedly throughout the day.
As we all know kids are very curious, and they wanted to know all about me as well. Most importantly, they wanted to know, “How did you get all of your scars?” It became the question of the day. I was thrown off guard so my first my response was I would tell them later. Maybe, I thought they would forget or maybe I didn’t know what to say. Now that I have kids of my own, I realize kids don’t forget, they need an answer. If they don’t get the answer they will keep asking. And that is exactly what kept happening.
I am not sure why I did not know how to answer the questions about why I looked different. I was teaching in someone else’s classroom and my mind was blank. Was I even allowed to tell the children personal things or would a parent be upset? These were questions for my advisor.
That afternoon I went into her office and posed this question to her. “The children are curious about my burns and I want to know what you think is the best way to handle it? Should I just sit them down and tell them what happened one time or am I allowed to answer questions only when they have them.”
She responded, “If you don’t know the answer to this question you should not be in this field, you should QUIT!”
I was absolutely shocked. I was not going to quit. Although, she was powerful and intelligent. Maybe she was right. She was strong enough to plant the seeds of doubt in my heart. My insecurity was beginning to take over in my thoughts. I now had doubted everything I worked so hard for. I would quit – I did not want to do something I was not good at. I had one semester left and I told the division that I would not be finishing my degree. I was no longer on the right path but had taken a U-turn.
I did not want to pray about it. God had failed me before (or so I thought), why would I pray now?
I was perfectly content to be unhappy and sulk about it. I could get used the idea of just being in my room watching lifetime movies with my endless supply of Ramen noodles! But… The truth was I was miserable. I let someone choose my future for me.
I few days later, dressed in my best pajamas, I went to my mailbox and I found a handwritten letter. I did not recognize the name or address, but it was postmarked from a city I recognized about one hour away. I opened the four page letter from a women named Sara. She told me she had been praying for me in her church group. The letter stated that one of my professors goes to her church and mentioned my situation. At first, I was mortified. “I am such a loser”, with a capital L. People need to pray for me, I must be seriously screwed up. But, I read the letter again and again and again. Sarah was a mom, a teacher, and sent me a message I could actually relate to.
She told me never to give in to the pessimists in our lives. They see the difficulty in every opportunity in life. She told me to listen to the words of Langston Hughs.
Hold Fast to Dreams
For if Dreams Die
Life is a Broken- Winged Bird
That Cannot Fly.
Hold Fast to Dreams
For When Dreams Go
Life is a Barren Field Frozen With Snow. -Langston Hughs
Sarah told me that God has my back. She told me that God had a plan for me and it is not in my past it lies in the future.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him and he will make straight your path. Proverbs 3: 5-6
I cannot tell you that God saved me that day. I cannot even tell you that I prayed. But on that day, someone was praying for me. After break, I chose to go back into my classroom and I told the students my story. I believe Sara’s letter was the boost I needed to step out of my comfort zone and be confident in myself. The kids were excited to hear and learned a lesson at the same time. As for my professor, she had the opportunity to see awesome possibilities but became Dr. Glass Half Empty. She challenged me but I became stronger because of her. The greatest part was the smile I could give her at graduation.
Sara’s letter eventually became my saving grace. It took a long time but I eventually realized God works through each one of us. The letter is still next to my bed. Every time I face a new challenge in life I read the letter she wrote me on that day. Her one act of kindness and compassion gave me the strength I needed at a difficult juncture in my life.
Right now we are all facing a tough time in our country. These challenges can help us grow together in unity or fall apart. If we choose to spread God’s love by the things that we do for one another we will be stronger. We all need encouraging words from time to time and most of us need a prayer. So even if you are not ready to pray for yourself take the time out today to pray for someone else.
“For I can do everything through Christ who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:13