An unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat
Often, fear tells us there is something wrong that needs to be addressed or corrected. For example, I feared if I didn’t change my eating habits, my cholesterol, triglyceride, and blood glucose levels would continue to increase and I’d develop diabetes. Then I’d end up like my dad, who had a stroke and ultimately passed away. The message? Cut down on the processed foods and sugar, and exercise regularly. I did exactly that, and the fear I had that my poor health habits would threaten my health led to me making better choices and becoming healthier and stronger.
But often, we look at Fear as something to be conquered, something to be overcome. We look at Fear as something that can paralyze us. We fear not being good enough. We fear the past. We fear the future. We fear failure. And these fears can seem to be very real, especially if we play around with them in our minds.
I’ve done this. I’ve feared the past. I feared that my husband would be just like the men I allowed hurt me in my past, because, of course, all men are the same. And because of this fear, I treated him like he would hurt me as others did in my past by being defensive toward him.
I wanted to rid myself of Fear. After all, the most frequently stated admonition in the Bible is, “Do not fear.”
I found this to be a monumental task, and that if I spent time thinking about it, even imagining how I could rid myself of it, Fear became bigger.
But what if we looked at Fear as “an amazing act of the imagination,” instead of something that we conquer, says fiction writer Karen Thompson Walker in a TED Talk entitled “What Fear Can Teach Us”. What if we looked at our fears as stories?
Yes, stories. Stories with character, setting, and plot, with a beginning, middle, and ending.
According to Walker,
“…fears are…a kind of unintentional storytelling we’re all born knowing how to do.”
And don’t we tell the stories? In my own story, I’m the main character, of course. I see how stories have run their course in the past, and I’ve told my stories in ways consistent with how they’ve progressed in the past. In doing so, I’ve used my imagination as a breeding ground for my fears. I’ve wasted a lot of time doing that. And I can’t get the time back.
So why don’t I use my fears to tell different stories? I can come up with a different plot, definitely a different ending. My story doesn’t have to end up the way it’s always ended up. I can make different choices in my story. I can actually choose my actions and plot based on how I want my story to end.
So if I have a fear of not being good enough that, in the past, caused me to behave in ways that sabotaged my relationship, why not tell my story differently than in the past so that it ends well? In my narrative, I can imagine that I am worthy of having a great relationship. In the process of me using my imagination to tell a different story of my worth, I believe it. And then I make choices that contribute to that better relationship. I don’t sabotage my relationship the way I’ve done in the past because of the false story I’ve told about my worth in the past. I’ve now used my imagination in a positive way. According to Ed Finn in his article “The Spark of Imagination,”
“Imagination is a powerful tool for changing the world because it can simply rewrite reality as we perceive it.”
I can simply rewrite what I want my reality to be and change my own internal world, leading to a change in my external world, my relationship (or any other aspect of my life).
But essential to being able to tell better stories is to be able to read our fears. Is the fear real? Is the fear justified? If the fear is real, if it is justified, then I must take steps to address it.
But if, after reading or examining the fear, we determine that the “narrative” is “false evidence appearing real,” then we can rewrite our plot.
Prior to seeing Karen Thompson Walker’s TED talk, through much prayer and reflection, I’ve been able to change what I’ve imagined concerning my husband. I see my husband as the gift God gave me, instead of seeing him in the context of past relationships. As a result, our relationship has improved greatly.
But since I’ve begun writing this post, I’ve had the opportunity to address certain fears, and it really has been helpful to view them as narratives. Instead of reacting and operating on auto-pilot, I was intentional to think about how I wanted my story to end. I behaved differently, and situations didn’t escalate. It works!
What do you think about viewing your fears as stories? How would your situations resulting from fear turn out if you used your imagination to generate narratives that turned out well?
I have generally been a selfish person. Giving of myself has not been a trait I’ve taken to well in my life, at least not in intimate relationships. Sharing of myself, my true self, was not something I did because it exposed me in ways I didn’t want people to see.
So before Solomon became my husband, he met and courted that selfish woman. That selfish woman was okay with him if her needs and wants were being met. But here was the problem: I did not reciprocate meeting my husband’s needs, particularly his emotional needs.
Now you might say, “You surely didn’t love that man.”
To which I’d say, “Not true.” However, throughout my lifetime, I didn’t learn how to love in intimate relationships. Because I had been hurt so many times.
Let me rephrase that. I allowed myself to be hurt, many times because of my own foolishness.
No matter the source, whether through my own choices or someone’s choice to hurt me, I built a wall that became almost impenetrable. I felt I had to defend myself. Do things for myself. Protect myself. Be selfish. Who’s going to take care of me but me?
Needless to say, my marriage was full of clash. For many years. Because my husband would sacrifice for me, yet I would feel put out if I had to do the same for him. (This does not imply that my husband is a pushover by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, my husband is the strongest, wisest, most profound man I’ve ever known in my entire life.)
So it would appear that my selfishness should’ve helped my relationship, because after all, if I didn’t feel like helping and I did anyway, I wouldn’t be true to myself.
But it didn’t.
One of my husband’s greatest strengths is his ability to put the needs of others above his own, especially mine. Whenever I’ve needed something, he’s always been there for me, even when he has to sacrifice something important to him to make sure I have what I need. I’ve felt safe in those moments. And there have been many moments. However, I would often fall back in defense mode without thinking, allowing my autopilot responses to take over when I became angry or irritated.
I recently read something though, that I’ve started to adopt, and have reaped the benefits of doing so. Instead of thinking, “making small sacrifices for your partner when you don’t feel like it could be damaging your relationship,” I began thinking that if I do what my husband needs me to do, we’ll be better off. We’ll have more harmony. We’ll have more joy. We’ll enjoy each other much more. The love between us will grow. So I began to pay attention to little things he needed. Even when I didn’t want to do them.
And then I read a chapter in Og Mandino’s University of Success entitled, “How to Get People to Help You Succeed,” by Robert Conklin. Just so you know, it’s not about manipulating people into doing what you want. Robert’s premise behind the chapter is:
“To the degree you give others what they need, they will give you what you need.”
Needs are, as Robert Conklin says, different than wants, because wants can be fleeting. They are sometimes never satisfied. However,
“…needs are the deeper currents of one’s existence. They are meaningful, worthy, and not as capricious as wants.”
So what are some of the things people need in relationships? They need (this is not an all-inclusive list at all):
So meeting someone’s needs in a relationship goes beyond doing chores. If you look at it as merely doing a chore, and you don’t feel like doing it, sure, you’re going to feel like you’re imposed upon (at least I would, and have). But if you look at it as your spouse needs your support and cooperation in order to accomplish a goal, or to meet a deadline, or just to make life a little easier for him, then you go beyond the superficial, “This is my husband’s job. I shouldn’t have to do this.” You get to, “I’m helping him get to where he wants to go. I’m helping meet a need so he can do what God has called him to do.” And that, I believe, can help us get out of our selfish individualism. And that, in essence, can help us to get our own needs met as well. I know that when I am conscious of this principle, my relationship works better. I enjoy my husband much more. And he enjoys me more as well. I’m not saying I’ve got it all together, though. In fact, I still make missteps, and I feel guilty every time. But I pick myself back up, ready to discover how I can help meet my husband’s needs so he can grow and become more than he could become if I withhold my support, my cooperation, my recognition of him, my respect for him.
The apostle Paul wrote in Philippians 2:3-4,
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others.
I think this is great advice for our relationships.
So can being more selfish be the key to a successful relationship? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
I had a craving for some popcorn today. So I popped some.
If we’re popcorn eaters, it is probably fair to say that many of us would purchase microwave instead of regular popcorn. Why? The microwave variety is more convenient and takes less time to prepare. Just throw it in the microwave for approximately 2-4 minutes (or hit the popcorn button on your wave machine) and be done with it.
One day, I decided to buy a bag of regular kernel popcorn – the store brand, no less – to prepare for an at-home movie outing. It cost me less than two dollars. I prepared to pop the corn, placing a thin layer of vegetable oil in the bottom of a medium sized pot, pouring the popcorn in the pot to cover the bottom, putting some chunks of Country Crock on top of the kernels, and sprinkling some Old Bay seasoning on the whole thing. Once I prepared the popcorn, I put a top on the pot, turned the flame on sort of high, and waited. It took awhile for the oil to get hot enough to pop the corn, probably the same amount of time it takes for the popcorn to pop in the microwave. In fact, my daughter asked, “When is it going to start to pop?” because she wanted the popcorn right then. Finally, the popcorn started popping. That took a little while too. But when the kernels stop popping and I took off the top of the pot, I had beautifully popped, buttery popcorn with no burning! It took a little more time to prepare it this way, but it sure was worth the wait. I achieved a much better result. That popcorn was delicious!
So who the heck cares about popcorn and how it’s cooked? What does this have to do with anything?
Just like the popcorn, or anything else we microwave, we sometimes seek changes in our lives to happen quickly. Let’s take weight loss, for example. I gained 37 pounds during my pregnancy – nine years ago. Up until last year, I carried 20 pounds of that baby weight. But last year, I decided I wanted to become healthy for me and my family. Of course, I wanted to lose the weight quickly, but I knew if I lost it too rapidly, there’d be a good chance I’d gain the weight back. We know that sometimes significant changes need to be made in order to achieve weight loss (I had 30 pounds to lose), but usually gimmicks and quick fixes cannot be maintained. In fact, the American Heart Association stated, “Because most quick-weight-loss diets require drastic changes in eating patterns, you can’t stay on them for long.” So if we lose the weight quickly, we often gain the weight back, sometimes more than what we gained in the first place. Quick fixes usually don’t work, at least not permanently. But I made changes gradually, changes that I could maintain. I learned what I could and could not eat and when I could eat it. I didn’t starve myself. I ate plenty of food (sometimes still too much). I began to work out regularly. So I am now 20 pounds lighter than I was this time last year. It’s taken a year. And I feel good that as long as maintain my new habits and let go of the bad, I will keep the weight off permanently (I actually have 10 more pounds to go).
Let’s take another example. For years, I didn’t control my emotions. In fact, I carried suppressed anger that I allowed rear its ugly head in my marriage often. It goes without saying that if I wanted to my marriage to succeed, I had to make some changes. And I wanted the changes to happen quickly. So over the years, I prayed, praised God, worshipped God, read my Bible regularly. And when I engaged in these activities, I thought I was emotionally healed. I thought that God was going to instantly heal me of my emotional baggage. After all, when Jesus healed people, it was usually an immediate healing. And surely, after most church services, I left feeling good, believing in my heart God had touched me in some way. And He did.
Deep down, my soul was still sick.
Yet, I continued to pray, I continued to read and reflect, I continued to seek God for my change. And as I persevered, things began to change. I began to look at my husband through different lenses. I began to see the glass as half full. God revealed to me how to make the changes. It wasn’t pretty, but after some years, I’ve learned how not to becoming offended so easily, how to communicate better, and how to see my husband as the gift God graciously gave me. We’ve now been married 12 years. And our relationship is better than it has ever been, and getting better!
I have come to a different understanding of emotional and spiritual healing these days. God is the source of healing for me. But I don’t think God does takes a “microwave popcorn” approach to it (at least He hasn’t for me). As the Greek slave and fable author Aesop said in The Tortoise and the Hare, ”Slow and steady wins the race.” And for me and my emotional health comes in the form of being more attuned to my immediate circumstances and how I react to them. But it’s taken time for me to figure out how to become more sensitive to how I react to things.
My emotional healing hasn’t been a quick fix, as much as I’ve wanted it to be. It has been a slow process. Yet it sure feels good to have a different response and reap the benefits of that response today.
So for those of you who are seeking a change (or changes), it may not be helpful to seek the quick fix. Because while temporary relief may come and go, transformation achieved through effort and struggle is lasting.
“Time is a dressmaker, specializing in alterations.” ~Faith Baldwin
We pass them in the grocery store. We breeze by them in the office. We ride with them on elevators. Yet, we have no idea what the person standing next to us is really going through, what trauma they may have just experienced, what bad news they may
A spouse diagnosed with a terminal illness. Visiting a parent in hospice unknowingly for the last time. Wondering how Dad, who just had a stroke, will be taken care of.
These are a few of only millions of real situations people encounter and have to deal with each day.
What’s more, WE may BE the person who’s just received the unfavorable news or the bad diagnosis.
We live in a society where we’re so rushed and busy; it’s normal for us to focus on what we need to do in the moment (this is me). But what could potentially happen if we just slowed down a moment and stopped to think of those around us, to smile at someone, to just say, “Good morning,” or “Good afternoon” to the person standing in line before us?
I recently watched a video entitled, “Empathy: The Human Connection to Patient Care,” a video produced by the Cleveland Clinic (I originally saw it on the blog “On Being” by Krista Tippett).
The video started out with a quote by Henry David Thoreau,
“Could a greater miracle take place than for us to look through each other’s eyes for an instant?”
Just for an instant, just for a moment.
I think sometimes that may be easier said than done. I know it is for me.
So how do we go about being people who can see through another’s eyes? How can we learn to show more empathy in our fast-paced world?
Habit 1: Cultivate curiosity about strangers (my husband does this so well) – this entails not just talking to the person next to you about the weather, but about “trying to understand the world inside the person.”
Habit 2: Challenge prejudices and discover commonalities – I know that I’ve made assumptions about people based on the way they look, and upon having a conversation with them, learned they were completely different than what I thought.
Habit 3: Try another person’s life – this is a physically experiential habit. In other words, do something that represents how another person views life. For example, if you’re a Christian, attend a Sikh service. If you don’t like the outdoors, spend some time camping for a night.
Habit 4: Listen hard and open up – really listen and make yourself vulnerable by exposing ourselves and our own emotions (I personally think you have to survey the situation to make sure opening yourself up is really “safe”).
Habit 5: Inspire mass action and social change – practicing empathy is not just for individuals. People can organize collectively to practice empathy to inspire social change. It seems the Occupy movement may have fit that bill, at least initially. But according to the article, collective change will most likely come about by teaching this new generation of children how to be empathic. As well, social networking is a vehicle that can be a catalyst for change.
Habit 6: Develop an ambitious imagination – this seems similar to Habit 3. According to the article, “We also need to empathize with people whose beliefs we don’t share or who may be “enemies” in some way. If you are a campaigner on global warming, for instance, it may be worth trying to step into the shoes of oil company executives…”
So here are six habits that we can develop to help us grow in empathy.
HOW DO YOU PRACTICE EMPATHY? WHAT ARE SOME OTHER WAYS WE CAN PUT OURSELVES IN ANOTHER’S SHOES TO POSITIVELY IMPACT THAT PERSON’S LIFE, AS WELL AS OUR OWN?
Haven’t we all felt this way at some points in our lives?
“I’m so fed up! I don’t know what to do! I’m so overwhelmed! I can’t take this anymore!”
Your on-the-rocks marriage. Your disrespectful children. Your overbearing boss. Your seemingly ever-insufficient finances. Your worsening health. Pressures from caring for your elderly parents. Many other stressors and burdens can be added to this list (not that you want to, but the reality is, they’re lurking or right smack in your face).
You’re desperate, weary, pressed down, disappointed, and depressed. This is not an all-inclusive list – you may have felt something I didn’t mention here, but these are some emotions I’ve felt as I’ve dealt with issues related to my marriage, my finances, my health, and attempting to care for my dad who had a stroke and had to move 750 miles into our home (thank you, my wonderful husband).
These emotions can lead to anger, bitterness, resentment, and rage, which can affect your relationships, your job, and your peace of mind in destructive ways. Part of the problem is this – often you don’t know your relationships, job, and peace of mind are being crushed under the weight of these emotions until it’s sometimes too late.
Yet, you want better. For your marriage. For your family. For yourself. You know you have to change. You want to get control of the anger, the rage, the bitterness. In fact, you can’t stand how your emotions seem to take control when adverse situations rear their ugly heads. When your husband gets on your nerves. When your children have gone bananas. When your job is beating you down. When you just can’t get control of your circumstances (and as a control freak myself, not being in control is more than unsettling).
There was a woman who, according to the writer of the Gospel of Mark, faced similar circumstances.
Now there was a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years (Mark 5:25).
She was in a situation over which she had no control. Her body failed her, and she did everything she could to find a cure. She went to the neighborhood clinic. She went to the doctor in-town. She went to the best specialists money could buy. And yet, with every visit, each doctor gave her a prescription for this, a prescription for that. An herbal remedy here, a natural remedy there.
She had endured much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had; and she was no better, but rather grew worse (Mark 5:26).
It’s sort of like going to church desperately searching for your healing. You do what the pastor tells you to do. You clap and shout for God. You go to the altar to pray. You even give extra in the offering plate. Now, don’t get me wrong. There is absolutely nothing wrong with church – in fact, I love praising and worshiping God! But in my own experience, I allowed the worship to mask my pain. I used church to hide my sicknesses – the anger, the disappointment, the bitterness. I pretended like I received my healing in the midst of my praise. After all, isn’t that what’s supposed to happen? “When the praises go up, the blessings come down,” is the familiar expression. Yet, for me, I used the acts of praise and worship as ways to ignore my own affliction. And of course, teaching weekly Bible studies means that you’re emotionally and spiritually healthy, right?
Perhaps not. At least not in my case.
What have you tried to mask your pain – conferences, retreats, counseling, medication? (Or maybe I’m just talking to myself.)
Let’s return to the scene of the woman with the endless hemorrhage. She searched for a solution to her suffering for years. She had nothing left. She was financially and emotionally bankrupt.
She had endured much…and had spent all that she had (Mark 5:26).
Yet, she didn’t give up. As she walked through town, she heard about a man who was going around her town healing people. And based on what she heard, she knew without a shadow of a doubt that if she could just get to Him, she would be healed of her affliction.
She had heard about Jesus, and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, for she said, “If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well” (Mark 5:27-28).
Although she had never met the man, she expected Jesus would restore her. She had hope in a man she had never seen. But she knew He had the power to change her. She took her hope and placed it all on Him – literally. And because she did, she was healed of a disease that nobody else could cure.
Immediately her hemorrhage stopped; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease (Mark 5:29).
That’s good news – not just for her, but for us as well. For as she held on to just a bit of hope – hope that she could one day live the life she once lived without shame (in ancient times, people would shun such people who were ill from sickness and disease from society). Hope that she could one day be normal. Hope that she could one day regain that which she had lost – her dignity, her purpose. She had hope.
Even when I wasn’t who I needed and desired to be in my marriage, I absolutely knew that if I continued to pray and seek God for restoration, no matter how long it took, God would heal the afflictions from the baggage I brought into the relationship, and things would change for me, thereby changing my marriage. It took awhile. I had a lot of inner work to do. It was painful. But I held on to hope. And I’m now reaping the benefits of that hope. I’ll always be doing that inner work. But I expected God to do something for me. And that’s just one example. There are many more I could talk about. But I’ll spare you.
What about you? Hopefully your marriage has brought some blessings. Think about those blessings, but hold on to the possibility of more. You know your children are inherently good and wonderful human beings. Think about the wonderful moments you had with them, and hold on to the possibility that you will see goodness again. Hold on to the good times you had with them, but hold on to the possibility of more.
Hold on to hope. But how?
First, hold on to the word that God cares for you, is concerned about you, and wants the best for you.
For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope (Jeremiah 29:11).
Second, you must give up your pride. Acknowledge your role in your own affliction. In marriage, it takes two to make it what it is – good or bad. In your relationship with your children, maybe your need to control has been overbearing to the point of contention. Have you had a good attitude related to your job? Have you been kind to yourself, forgiving yourself of past failures that you may be beating yourself over (I know a lot about this)?
Think of your own situation. Own it, acknowledge it.
But after you’ve done so, the third thing to do is to give it to God. The scripture says,
Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:6-7).
Fourth, don’t always look for immediate healing. God wants to grow us up. It didn’t take an hour or two for you to become an adult. Healing is a process. Holding on to hope is a process. But no matter how long it takes, no matter how uncomfortable it feels, go in peace knowing that God began a good work in you and will complete it (Philippians 1:6).
Fifth, CHANGE YOUR THOUGHTS! As Marianne Williamson stated, “Thoughts are not neutral.” If you think negatively about your situation, that negative energy will make its way out into your relationships, your job, your finances, and every other area of your life, and you won’t receive your blessing. Your hope will be in vain. Think positively about your spouse, your children, your job, your finances, yourself. Because as a person thinks in her heart, so is she (Proverbs 23:7).
As you hold on to hope, realize that healing and deliverance come in ways you may not expect. Lay your own expectations on the altar, and allow God to restore you in ways He knows is best. It’s uncomfortable – believe me, I’ve been, and continue to go, through the process. But as you go through, please do one last thing:
CELEBRATE THE VICTORIES, NO MATTER HOW SMALL.
In situations in which you may have become angry with your spouse but you held your tongue, celebrate (in your own mind and by yourself). In times where you may have taken a drink but you prayed and held out, celebrate. At the end of the month when you had a few more dollars than you normally would have, celebrate (but don’t go out and buy anything). When you look in the mirror, see a person who is completely loved by God and celebrate. Whatever your affliction, because you are holding on to hope, you’re making progress. And because you’re making progress, you are succeeding. Just hold on.
And when you fall, just get back up and do it again. Don’t give up. Hold on – no matter what it takes – to HOPE.
What have you done to hold on when things aren’t the way you want them to be in your life? I’d love to hear your feedback!
‘Tis the season of commencement. A time when graduates close one chapter of their lives to begin the next.
I started this blog in 2006. I blogged consistently for awhile, then hit a few snags. As is often the case, life got in the way. Not in a bad way, though. Demands changed. Priorities shifted. Then writing ceased. For years.
There were a few disingenuous false attempts to return. Yet, it wasn’t the time. I felt like I was forcing myself to live in a space where I didn’t belong. So while I missed writing, I had to stay on the sidelines.
Yet it is now Commencement time not only for high school and college graduates, but for me as well. I am returning to my blog, writing here at Women Walking In Wisdom’s Footsteps™. And I’m excited about the direction I sense God is taking me.
The tagline to this blog is “For women who are humble enough to seek wisdom, yet sensible enough to impart it.” So first, while anyone can read my blog, I direct my writing toward women, because I am one, and I know much more about women than I do men.
Second, I anticipate women other than me will contribute to this blog. In no way do I profess to be an expert on anything. However, I do believe that I can take the steps of women whose feet have been where I’ve been and have achieved some success in areas in which I’ve struggled.
I’ve often felt like I’m the only one who struggles in so many areas of life. Before I got married, I failed in my relationships. And those failures followed me. I should say, I packed those failures in a bag and carried them around with me every day. Just like Erykah Badu’s song entitled “Bag Lady.” She sings:
Bag lady you gone hurt your back
Dragging all them bags like that
I guess nobody ever told you
All you must hold on to
Is you, is you, is you
One day all them bags gone get in your way
One day all them bags gone get in your way
I said one day all them bags gone get in your way
One Day all them bags gone get in your way
I know a lot about those bags. But while I once believed I was the only one who experienced the pain of carrying that baggage, I now know, as I’ve worked through ridding myself of some of those bags, that I’m not the only one. I’ve learned some things as I’ve thrown away baggage, and I’d like to talk about some of that on this blog in an effort to help others.
As I share my experiences in the areas of relationship/marriage, parenting, health and body image, emotional intelligence, and spirituality, I hope my readers will also share not only their own struggles, but advice as well.
In full disclosure, I am a Christian. The foundation of my writings is God and Jesus Christ. However, I do believe that no matter your faith tradition, you can glean something from the writing here. I don’t say that to be arrogant at all. I just think that the wisdom imparted here through the women who read and comment can help others if we can all keep an open mind.
I’m excited to be back. I’ll post once weekly on Tuesdays. If I feel the urge to write a second post, I’ll do so. But for now, look for the first post this Tuesday.
In the meantime, click here to learn a little more about me. I look forward to getting to know more about you.
(If you like what you’ve read, please click here or enter your email address in the SUBSCRIBE BY EMAIL box in the sidebar to receive my blog posts by email.)
My students just knew I’d love this video and insisted on showing it to me.
They were right… I LOVED it!
I’ve never seen this kid, but I’ll be watching more of his “pep talks.” In addition to him being very cute, he seems to know the right questions to ask. For example, this very important question addressed to us all:
“What will you create to make the world awesome?”
Very encouraging. From the mouths of babes.
I wish someone taught me these principles when I was his age. I wouldn’t have so much to make up for now. Better late than never.
Share this to encourage someone who needs to know they’re special and needed in this world.
When you think about the words that you’ve seen in some girls’ bathroom stalls, what do you normally think about? Words that typically come to my mind are vulgarity, nastiness, foolishness, offensive… lots of these types of adjectives come to mind. Of course, then there are all the phone numbers revealing personal data about people who had no intention of sharing that information.
Who would think that one could receive wisdom from a girls’ bathroom stall? And yet, that’s exactly what was found in a university restroom, in response to the disclosure of some tragic and terrible life experiences, written in a single stall.
That someone took the time out to thoughtfully respond is remarkable. Her words are inspiring – for anyone.
Take a look at the story, with an image of the actual note, here.
I love teaching. I love teaching biblical texts. Teaching biblical texts affords me the opportunity to help my learners understand scripture in a way that they’ve never had the opportunity to learn it before. I get to help them explore the texts in their historical and cultural contexts, but we also get to explore together how those texts influence our culture and lives today.
In my Old Testament classes, we’ve been exploring the narrative of the man and woman in the Garden of Eden in Genesis 3. We do a pretty close reading of texts because I find that students’ assumptions of biblical events and the meaning of those events is often colored by what they may have previously heard in church, and crucial details are often missed, which sometimes leads us to a not-so-complete interpretation of the stories. I think we do ourselves a disservice by not attending to these sacred texts intently, because we can possibly miss what the original intent of the writing was.
Not that there aren’t other ways to interpret the Bible other than historically. I’m by no means saying that. I’m just saying that I’ve discovered that examining scripture in its original context can provide some pretty rich interpretations, and can really help to enrich one’s faith. At least it has enriched my own.
Okay, I’m a little off on a tangent…
My learners and I were exploring the following text:
Now the serpent was more crafty than any other wild animal that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God say, ‘You shall not eat from any tree in the garden’?” The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden; but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden, nor shall you touch it, or you shall die.’“ (Genesis 3:1-3)
Now, that’s not the command God originally gave regarding that tree. God originally told the man (Adam):
“You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die.” (Genesis 2:16-17)
So you can see, what God told the man and what the woman said God commanded are a little different.
So I asked my 9th graders, “Why do you think she got the commandment wrong?”
Some students said, “Maybe she just didn’t hear the command clearly.” Others said, “Well, God didn’t give it to her, and so the man (Adam) may have not communicated the command clearly to her.”
To which one of students said,
“Maybe he just didn’t like her.”
I was speechless.
Because it made sense.
For what other reason would he blame her for being tempted to eat the fruit? For what other reason would he not fess up to getting the command wrong?
So I stood there in the front of the class, pondering what she said. For about a minute. I couldn’t seem to move on from my learner’s statement. It intrigued me.
And my other learners watched me in my state of intrigued-ness. I think they took some delight in it, knowing that, as I said to them, I had heard something about that text that I’d never heard before, and it came from a 14-year old.
Which is why I teach.
I learn so much from my learners. If I ever think that I’m teaching only to impart a bunch of knowledge, to open my students’ brains and pour into them everything I know, then I need not be in a classroom. For my classroom is a community, and we are all there to learn.
So in that moment, I was reminded of how each of us has a voice, a very important voice, because God has imparted to each of us a measure of wisdom. It’s up to us to hear that wisdom and use it for the betterment of us all.
And it doesn’t matter who imparts it. Whether I get it from my 8-year old daughter, my 14-year old freshmen, my 17-year old seniors, my ??-year old husband (who is incredibly wise), or someone on the street, it doesn’t matter. God uses His children to share His wisdom with us all.
And I’m thankful I’m in a position in which I can encourage my students to explore their own inner wisdom by asking questions which causes them to dig into texts differently than they’ve done in the past. Because in doing so, I think I’m empowering them to use those voices for good.
The challenge – look for wisdom to come in unexpected ways.