“Spring semester will be crazy,” Miriam and I said to each other at the end of the fall semester, with no idea of how true that statement was going to prove to be. The spring semester always seems to be more full and fast than the fall semester; relationships are continuing, there aren’t any long holidays, and there’s the knowledge that the spring semester, unlike the fall semester, ends with a plane ride back to America for a couple of months.
Our conference’s theme in January was “Anticipating the Unexpected.” It was a good theme, I thought, because who couldn’t relate to this? Especially living overseas, you learn to hold plans more loosely, knowing that they’ll most likely change. We had no idea, at that point, how relevant the theme was going to be for our spring.
And here we are, just beginning week three of having completely new classes. It feels to both of us like we should be at least a few weeks further in; the days have been long and full, of mostly good things and some new challenges. We’re feeling more of the exhaustion and lack of margin that comes of being on a two person team and we’re really hoping for a new teammate or two next year.
So far, this semester is good. I love my new classes and I’ve been really impressed by the students’ willingness to dive into topics and discussion and learning; it’s very encouraging and stimulating to me as a teacher to have students who are ready to engage and push themselves so that we can cover a lot of ground in this one semester and go deep.
So far, this semester is draining. This is not what I meant, I found myself telling the Father the other night as I lay in bed, too tired even to roll over, when I said that I wanted to become better at praying. I was thinking more along the lines of cool intercession and less along the lines of a constant ummmmmmmm help I cannot do all the things. I can’t even remember all the things I’m supposed to be doing. Trying to begin developing relationships with ~250 students while continuing to invest in relationships with students from last semester is not a challenge that I would have chosen for myself. When I said my word for 2017 would be prodigal, I was not thinking about being given enormous numbers of students. But there it is.
So far, this semester is encouraging. In the classroom, in the office, during meals, at our first movie night (The Truman Show), we’ve been delighted to hear what our students are thinking about. Having old students still show up in our first week of office hours last week was a huge joy.
So far, this semester is humbling. We’ve been brought face to face with our some of our own inadequacies. As two people juggling nearly a thousand students from this year alone, we are unable to do everything that we’d like to do. There aren’t enough hours in the day for all of the conversations I’d love to have. When fifteen students come to the office, we can’t interact with each of them at the depth that we’d like to. We’ve been confronted with the reality that sometimes we love our students because they are pretty easy to love… so how do we love when they aren’t? All of these things are good to be reminded of, to be forced to recall on a daily basis that we aren’t here to teach and to love out of our own finite abilities, but from the much deeper well of His wisdom and love.
As I’ve been thinking about this semester and my role and responsibilities in it, a line from Mumford & Sons’ song Hot Gates has stuck in my mind.
And I can't be for you all of the things you want me to
But I will love you constantly
I cannot be all of the things that my students want me to be — their best friend, their new toy, the one who waves a magic wand to make them native speakers of English, the one who answers all of their questions and concerns, the one who loves them enough to fill every gap and hurt in their lives. I cannot be all of the things that I want myself to be, in my relationships with my students, with friends in America, in any area of my life.
But I can love constantly. Because I have been loved by the One who is perfect, who is enough and so much more than we could dream of.
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