This post may be a little woo-woo-sounding, but it’s about something I’ve been going through and how I’ve been dealing with it — including looking to God for guidance, and the guidance I received, and where it may take me.
I’ve been struggling with this one class. Of the eight that I’m teaching right now (four college, four ACT prep), there’s just this one that I can’t seem to get into the flow on. It’s one of the ACT prep classes that the district has made mandatory for every kid in certain schools designated “underperforming” (code for all kinds of other adjectives having to do with disparity of resources). Most of the classes of this type that I’ve taught have been challenging but ultimately rewarding for me as a teacher, and the kids have seemed to get something out of them too. For this one, though, uh-uh. Even though individual sessions may go well enough, given that the kids didn’t choose to be in this class and most don’t want to be there, there’s this palpable antagonism coming from the students that goes beyond mere not caring.
I had this group before. I get them for eleven days at a time, not all in a row, and I haven’t been able to shake the role of outsider. They hated the (pre-set) material and I felt like they hated me. Their classroom teacher didn’t seem to like me, either, and that didn’t help. She seemed to have sized me up in the beginning and dismissed me as ineffective and not worth her time. I tried not to take it personally, but it took a lot of emotional energy to keep going in there, to keep smiling, to keep looking for ways to get them engaged. I rotated out to another class for a while — a great relief — but I knew I would be going back. Man, I sweated it. I seriously did not know how I was going to get through the hour each day, let alone offer the students something that would actually be useful or helpful to them.
But it turned out that this was actually a good place for me to get to. Because when I realized I was at the very end of my power to get through something that I knew I had to get through, a light finally came on. If I recognize my powerlessness over life circumstances, I know my only choice is surrender to God.
I was drawn to a little book of daily meditations by Hazelden called In God’s Care for a message from my higher self. The message was this:
“A consciousness of God releases the greatest power of all.” — Science of Mind Magazine ~~ Just thinking of God as we go into situations we’re uncomfortable with or perhaps even fearful of will relieve our troubled mind and lessen our anxiety. Carrying God in our thoughts means we don’t have to, for that moment or hour or day, feel alone. Quite miraculously, we’ll know that God can help us handle what we could not handle alone. Most of us dwell more on negative thoughts than on thoughts of God. And our life is far more confused and complicated than it needs to be as a result. To replace one thought with another is really quite simple. A quiet reminder to stop negative thinking and remember God is all that’s necessary. We may have to repeat the process many, many times, but patience brings the result we want. God will strengthen us and take away our fears if we remember to remember. ~~ I will keep God in mind today. I will concentrate on remembering.
Whew! Yeah. As soon as I read these words, my heart remembered and knew their truth. I felt the blessing of them immediately. So I did this. I clung to that message as to a lifeline. The first day that I went back to this class, I concentrated on remembering that just thinking of God would release a new energy into the situation. When I went into the school, I inwardly spoke God’s name. In the classroom, during a lull, I tried to turn on my spiritual awareness, to sense God’s presence — and of course the presence was there, as it always is, everywhere. And here’s what God showed me when I tuned in to God’s perspective: the stress, the distrust, the shields, the fear, the worry, the isolation that these students carried. I felt the atmosphere as one of tension, of deep, deep guardedness. I knew that I could never know what types of circumstances and home lives they had experienced. And all I could feel toward them was compassion.
And toward the teacher, I simply felt friendliness, a new openness that surprised me, that came to me without my trying. If there had previously been a power struggle, my end of it dissolved. I felt no hesitation about going up to her at every opportunity and asking her for suggestions, or what she did in her own classes. I couldn’t make her like me, but I could send the message that I liked her, respected her, and wanted to work together. After this, the vibe definitely shifted.
Since then, I have relied on God to get me through each class. I’ve been giving it everything I’ve got in terms of teaching ideas — there’s pretty much nothing I won’t try at this point to make the class worthwhile for the students. But at the same time, I’ve surrendered the outcome and my own will and effort to the power of God — and I’ve needed to, because finding the courage to face it continues to be a daily challenge.
Yesterday, I was still having a tough time. As I walked into the school, I imagined God walking with me, throwing an arm around my shoulder, encouraging me. I got through the class; the activity I’d come up with was semi-successful (which is really saying a lot, compared to past experiences!). And as I left the class and headed out of the building, I found myself still connecting to that feeling that God was right there with me.
God as I meet God through recovery literature is a lot like God as I meet God in the Baptist church: Real. Personal. Walking beside me. Speaking in direct and unmistakeable words, right into my heart. The Infinite One who still has both the time and desire to talk to me, the lowly straggler. I guess that must be part of the Infinity. This is the expression of God that I can have a conversation with, the one that will give me guidance, straight up.
So I asked:
Am I doing all right?
You are doing fine, kiddo. That feeling of security and warmth that lets me know when I’m hearing Spirit’s word welled up under my rib cage.
I asked: Am I doing what you want me to be doing?
The answer came instantly: Honey, I don’t want you to have to be working so hard.
I felt the beginnings of tears as I climbed the long hallway ramp, heading out of the building. My current seven-days-a-week teaching schedule has been taking a toll, and I’ve been feeling depleted of emotional energy.
I asked: What can I do to change this? I’ve been so stuck in this rut, working so hard and not making a living wage.
God answered, gently but firmly: You need to respect yourself. All the guidance about publishing your work is part of this.
Me: (Silence; reflection. It’s been an ongoing crisis all spring. I’ve been doing a daily practice to “remove obstacles” between me and the sustainable and creative work life that I want to manifest. The practice had led me strongly toward writing.)
God: And when you learn to respect and value yourself and the unique gifts I gave you, I will place you where I want you. Don’t worry about figuring out the “right” job to pursue. I’ll put you there when you have learned this lesson.
As I passed through the door and walked to my car, I noticed the warming, fresh-smelling spring air. I reached up to touch a branch of one of the gorgeous, thick-trunked pine trees that ring the school grounds. God will place me where God wants me, eh? I felt a smile begin in my heart and extend across my whole body.
I know I don’t respect and value myself as God does, or as God wants me to. And sometimes I don’t believe I’ll ever be able to. But I’ve grown in this area, certainly, over the past many years. It’s one of my life lessons. In my family, it’s transgenerational. Part of the purpose of my life is to heal this wound of self-unlove that has stretched so deep and wide. This conversation with God made me feel like I had the inner permission to take another step, or more, into self-value, which would really be a step of greater closeness to God.