Today found me waking early on yet another Saturday morning. Unlike the previous Saturday, I was on my bicycle at 7:45 pedaling about the town. Houses whizzed by or, if I was going uphill, stood almost still. About halfway through this adventure my body realized that it was awake and, what was more, it was active. Immediately my mind screamed,"WHERE IS MY COFFEE???!!!!" as it is prone to do when caffeinated bliss is delayed. I did my best to quiet my waking mind and pedaled on. Flowers bloomed, birds chirped, and on certain streets there was the pungent smell of stale cigarette smoke hanging heavy in the air. All in all, it was a nice way to spend an early Saturday morning before the rest of the waking people left their houses. All of this was powered by the music posted below.
You might not think this would be a nice soothing way to pedal away an early Saturday morning, but if so you need to change your way of thinking.
Yesterday morning I decided I was tired of standing at the front of a boring old classroom. The white cement block walls were closing in on me. Simply add a bed against the wall and a toilet in the corner and it would have felt much like a prison. So, we went outside. Don't read too much into this, but as I sat on the low brick wall of a flower bed with my students cross-legged on the ground around me, I felt a little bit like Jesus. Understand, I am not claiming deity. I have no Messiah-complex. C.S. Lewis writes that we all have an inherent likeness to God that we have been created with, but what is possibly the nearest to God is that likeness that we have to seek and work at. Its the likeness to Christ himself here on this earth loving all, giving of Himself, feeding the hungry, that we are really after. I have always had a hard time being merciful and loving others. I see these two things ("love and mercy" to quote Brian Wilson) to be inextricably connected. I like to illustrate my lack of these things by recounting to people a time when, at a summer youth group camp, I took a very long and very detailed "spiritual gifts assessment". While my gifts were very clear when the numbers came back showing us our strengths, my weaknesses were no less obvious. My eyes were drawn less to the strengths and more to the -4 (yes, negative four) that I had gotten back in the area of mercy. Very much bewildered by this, I approached the person responsible for the "class" (this is not what it was, but it gives you an idea) and showed it to him. He chuckled (?) and told me not to worry about it and it might just be something that I had to work on. Oh how right he was.
When I first began student teaching I wrote in my ST journal, "I have to pray and pray that God will have mercy on me so that I in turn can have mercy on others. I lack mercy. I lack love." That was day one. Now I am on day number (?), have only one week left, and the situation is much different. I still have to pray for mercy (both to and from me), but my prayers to God and conversations with Hazel have gone from "I want to love others" to "loving others sucks." As Hazel pointed out to me recently, "You've spent the last few years closing yourself off to others and keeping yourself from feeling. Now you love others and its probably a hard adjustment to make." Thank you Hazel, you are correct. I've been thinking a lot about this. Its hard loving others. Its hard caring for my students. When we care for others every piece of us may scream (like my body screamed for caffeine on this morning's bike ride) to retreat to isolation; to find someplace safe. But Christ came to love the world. Christ literally poured Himself out for us, and if we are to truly be like Him we must do the same. As Lewis says in The Four Loves,
To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket-- safe, dark, motionless, airless -- it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation. The only place outside of Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all dangers and perturbations of love is Hell. -Lewis p. 121I said that I felt like Jesus. Yesterday, sitting there with my students at my feet, I realized or perhaps caught a glimpse, of the awesomeness and vulnerability of a life spent in relentless pursuit of Christ's example; of a life spent loving others. The masses at his feet took on new significance in light of the class at mine. I realized that a life lived loving others is a dangerous one. Nothing is ever guaranteed, but as Christ loved us and poured Himself out for us, so must we, Christ's followers, do for those at our own feet.