Every Heart is a Burning Flame

It's the most wonderful time of the year.  Or something like that.  It's definitely one of the craziest times of the year as we've moved into finals week for the fall semester.  (And let's be honest, "craziest" and "most wonderful" do often significantly overlap in my life.)  We're also getting ready for Christmas (yay!) and then spinning other plates, such as regular meetings and office hours and homework. 

I want to record a few stories so that I don't forget about them in all the busyness.  There are, I feel, too many unrecorded that I'd love to share too, of conversations with students and everyday life at Chuan Wai or the weekend trip that Miriam and I took with Phila and Joy to Chongqing, a neighboring province... but maybe another time.

There are the *facepalm* type of stories, such as the student who texts me at 9:30 the night before her 8 am class to check if the final exam is this week.  Yes, indeed it is.  And indeed we spent half of class last week talking about that exam and reviewing for it.

There are yes-apparently-I'm-doing-something-right type of stories, such as the student who wrote on his reflection that his least favorite thing about [oral English, mind you] class is that "we have too much conversations."  Mmmmmhm.

There are the absolutely hilarious stories, such as when I went to pick up a package that Phila had helped me order.  "What's your name?" the lady working asked me.  "Lu Qin," I said, much to her confusion.  I guess I don't look Chinese.

There are the heart-wrenchingly sad stories: students who, in their final exam, tell me about when their brother died suddenly in high school, or how their parents moved away to work. 

There are the surprise stories: students who haven't stood out much for any reason all semester, but who blow me away in two minutes of conversation.

I feel extraordinarily lucky this semester.  My classes are golden and I delight in getting to teach these particular groups of students.  Certainly, there are aspects of my work that aren't sheer delight to me all the time, but overall, I love everything that I get to do and that is a really purely fun place to be.  I feel like there is never enough time for everything that I want to do -- story writing in particular has kinda gotten the short end of the stick this semester, but, as T. S. Eliot says, "I rejoice that things are as they are" (Ash-Wednesday).  I do rejoice. 

Recently I reread 24/6 by Matthew Sleeth and found a quote I had highlighted a year or two ago in it.
When I was in medical school, I saw patient after interest patient.  It was their stories more than their diagnoses that I found so compelling.  I'd get together with my friend Alan and compare notes.  We both had unbelievable luck.  Our classmates were envious.  They got the boring patients.  But Alan's and my good fortune held.  This happened rotation after rotation... I could tell something was going on.  It wasn't statistically possible to get all the great patients... It took several years for me to puzzle out why Alan and I were so fortunate: most patients are great; you just have to see them that way.
These words resonate with me, because this has overwhelmingly been my experience.  Most students are great.  Most people are great; fascinatingly, endlessly interesting and amazing and unexpected.  I feel extraordinarily blessed to have a job where I get to listen to so many people from such a wide variety of backgrounds and to catch glimpses of the imago Dei in each of them. 

As I do so often, I'll wrap up these thoughts with words from Andrew Peterson.

...maybe all the borders of the world were getting thin...
...all the people passing by were shining like the sun and beautiful
and the wonder of it caught him by surprise;
Oh Lord, I want to see the world with those eyes
I want to look into the night and see a million suns rise...
Every heart is a burning flame...


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