Sabbath Tuesday: Studies in Frailty

Keep our frailty before us, Lord : that we might set our hearts on you.

This was the prayer today in my Sacred Ordinary Days planner  (a review on this coming soon). And what a perfect way to begin a semester.

Today is the first day back at school for many university students, myself included. Students usually have one of the following reactions:

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But my relationship with the first day back to school—as both student and teacher—has always been a complicated one. Even in my fourth year of teaching, I was nervous to go back not only after summer break, but Christmas break, and even the one-week-long spring break. And I wasn’t nervous because I don’t like teaching. I love teaching, I love spending time with students, I love preparing lessons, I even love reading students’ work. Now, in my seventeenth year of being a student, and fifth year at the university level, I’m still restless and nervous to start a new semester. Obviously, loathing school isn’t my problem. So why the apprehension?

The first day of school—in August or January—reminds me of my frailty. I often asked myself as a teacher, especially on these first days of school, how I’m entrusted to guide ninety students through their humanities education, or why anyone thought I was capable of commanding an entire classroom. I may look confident in my heels with my journal of lesson plans and extra copies of handouts, but the first day of school has always been one of my weakest. As I return to school as a student, I have many of the same doubts and fears.

But praise Him for insecurities, because it gives me an opportunity to receive the grace I need each day. Teaching is the loveliest, most frightening, most exhausting, and most rewarding thing I’ve ever done, and that daily dose of grace reminded me to welcome Christ into the classroom, where I saw Him work through my weakness.

It is the same here in my graduate studies. My graduate degree is important to my development as a teacher and as a human being—not for the piece of paper that could help with a job search, but because it is helping me to understand education in a way that will affect my vocation and the numerous students I will teach in the future, and giving me time to think through the connections between theology, literature, and reading practices. And these days of frailty remind me that without Christ, it is all for naught. My own strength may result in a graduate degree, but my weakness gives opportunity for Christ to guide me in my studies. Above all, I want him to be present as I contemplate education, literature, and pedagogy.

So here’s to the first day of school, to insecurities, and to grace that daily provides.

Keep our frailty before us, Lord : that we might set our hearts on you.

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First day back to school, me in my natural habitat- i.e. my study. 

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