God has been teaching me a lot this past month. Translation: it has been hard. Now I think I’ve actually done a pretty good job at school, but there has been a lot to adjust to. Different car, different house, different job, different country, different language. That gives me a lot with which to be preoccupied… enough that I have been missing some big opportunities.
By preoccupied, I mean focusing on myself. I have been focusing on wondering why God brought us here and what he has planned for our future. Are we meant to stay here next year? Could we be used in this town or a different town in Honduras next year? When will I have a totally confident handle on my new job? When can I work on my Spanish so that I can connect with more people? In dwelling on these worries, I miss the moment. I think we all have a tendency to do this as human beings. I did the same thing in Michigan, worrying about our future, and that natural tendency doesn’t change just because you move to a different country… even a place you know God has called you to.
In focusing on myself, I’ve been missing the opportunity to show love to my students. I worried about being good enough in my new role, and I was overwhelmed by the preparation. I focused on the material instead of the students. Through a series of events with some good new friends here, they could see that I was overwhelmed, and they took a Bible class off my hands, taking me from 6 classes to 5. In the process, with their help, it became clear to me that my biggest responsibility here isn’t to have a perfect command of the material and make sure everyone learns every detail. While the content is still very important, my number one focus on the job needs to be loving my students. There are 115 students in those 5 classes, and there are 19 more in that Bible class that I won’t be teaching, but now I have an established relationship with them. My students don’t need me to make them memorize the periodic table or the Ten Commandments; they need me to help them know that they are loved.
They need to hear me tell them that I love them. They need me to show them that I love them. They need to hear me tell them that Jesus loves them. They need me to show them that Jesus loves them.
So what if God did move us to another town next year? So what if he did give me time to learn Spanish so I could reach more people here? What would be the goal? The goal would be to show those people God’s love. And right now, there are 134 kids I know well at the school, and they need to see God’s love, too. Any dream I have for the future can be fulfilled today when I take just a moment to look around.
And this applies to you, too. Whatever situation you are in, it’s not tomorrow or the next day or next year that matters… it’s today. How will you make today matter? How can you bring more of God’s love into today? How can you let the people around you know that they are loved today? How can you let them know that they are loved by you and by their heavenly father who is always with them through his holy spirit? How can you show them that Jesus loves them?
If you let yourself be distracted or overwhelmed by your circumstances, you can’t. As I was feeling overwhelmed and listening to a chapel message at school one day, I was busy thinking about how I was going to use my time in the next period, which I had free. Now, another teacher may be gone from time to time for various reasons, so once in a great while, we’ll need to fill in for another class. So as I’m struggling to follow along with the chapel message being given in Spanish, I get a note handed to me that says: “Mr. Joyce – 8:45 – Español – 11th Grade.” Now, I didn’t know much, but I was pretty sure that “Español” was Spanish for “Spanish.” Sure enough, I filled in for the Spanish teacher the next period. We had a study hall, and the students were grateful for the time to work, and I got to do a little planning, too. Sometimes, I think God still just likes to mess with me.
In 2 Corinthians 12:9, Paul describes God’s response to his prayer, and his plan moving forward:
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.
And James gives us his practical opinion in James 1:9, one that can help motivate us when we start focusing on the way the world sees us:
Believers in humble circumstances ought to take pride in their high position.
We can’t let the world force us to focus on our perceived failure to measure up to its definition of success. We must keep an eternal perspective in mind in everything we do. Contrary thinking and action are often signs of good spirituality.
And being overwhelmed at school is one thing, but there are a few other people here with me, too. There is so much opportunity and blessing for them that I can’t ignore. Stephanie has helped with some medical needs of other teachers here already, and she continues to be increasingly indispensable at the clinic, especially as she prepares for the brigades in a couple weeks. The kids are learning Spanish (probably faster than me), and there is a world-class music instructor at our school from which I’d love for them to take lessons. I got to enjoy a concert of his, and I’m not an aficionado of classical music, but as soon as it started, I thought, “Oh wow, this isn’t just good, it’s really good.” My suspicions were confirmed by another teacher watching it with me who herself played violin in an orchestra in Chicago for 35 years. So yeah, it was good.
And God’s provision is all around. Our home is wonderful. The school is an incredible blessing. The food here is absolutely amazing. The weather is warm. We are healthy. We are alive in God’s creation. We are learning to invite him more deeply into every moment of our days. We are here to be loved by God. We are here to share that love with others… today.
And for a concrete example of provision, my manual coffee grinder broke yesterday. But every year, the clinic ships a container full of medical supplies here. And this year, they let us put a couple boxes on it back in July. I packed an electric coffee grinder. The container arrived today. God clearly cares about coffee and wants only the best for me. Or maybe he knows it’s the only way I could be expected to share his love with others in the morning. Don’t tell me that God doesn’t care for his children.
So I’m gonna have some coffee, and then be present and loving in the lives of 134 students and 3 other special people. I’m gonna hold tighter to the Jesus I know so I can better share him with them. Everything else is secondary.