Journaling is one of my favorite ways to process my emotions. Here’s an entry from 2007 when I was teaching at a junior college.
I’m really struggling right now. I’ve lost my joy and I’ve lost my peace and I don’t know the way back. I have a bad attitude about teaching. I’m angry, resentful, proud, defensive, hurt, stressed, and just trying to tread water and not drown. I’ve had to let go of other areas of responsibility in order to survive. My friends say I sound depressed.
A VISUAL: These students are in a race and I’m their coach. I can encourage them, call from the sidelines, or lead them from out front. But if they choose to stop running, I can’t force them to continue. I can’t hold each of them at the same time and drag them along. While I’m helping one, another is lagging behind. I get them to help each other, but it’s not enough. They keep sitting on the sidelines and complaining that it’s too hard. Others stay in the race but can’t figure out where the path is and they keep wandering off into the marshes. Others are so far behind that they’ll never catch up and so they get discouraged. Some keep stepping off the track to care for business on the sidelines. Distractions abound (illness, deaths, winter weather, family stressors).
Meanwhile, my boss is yelling at me that I’m not trying hard enough. It’s my fault if I don’t provide the running shoes, hold their hands, stay with them till the sun goes down.
And me? I’m wearing myself out trying to be in ten places at once. I’m working day and night to keep the pace for the good, motivated student runners and still spending time running back and forth to grab the laggers. I can’t do it all. I hear my boss yelling in my ear, the runners wheezing and gasping at the effort, the ones in front complaining that I’m spending too much time in back, and the ones in back complaining I’m out front too much. I’m angry, tired, discouraged and ready to have this race come to an end.
What to do? I’m ready to listen, Lord.
Now rainclouds are forming overhead. It’s about to storm. I am at fault. I have not bathed my classes in prayer. I have not prayed for my students by name. I have not consistently blessed my classroom. I have asked for help for myself, but I’ve been too tired, distracted, and preoccupied to give it all over to God. I keep complaining, griping, crying that it’s too hard, too impossible a task that God has put in front of me. Now I sound like my students!
And so, first I repent for my neglect of my spiritual disciplines. I’ve lost my way, and I can’t keep the students on track if I don’t have the right focus.
So God gives me another VISUAL: I’m a tour guide in a cave. I can point out the beauty along the way, and I’ll give my lecture to those who keep up. I can wait for a few stragglers to catch up before I begin lecturing, but if they are talking in the back and not listening, or if they turn back to the entrance of the cave because they got too tired to keep on going, I have to let them go. It’s their choice if they don’t listen. And it’s not my fault if they are physically incapable of keeping up. I can provide a wheelchair, but unless they get someone else to push them, they’re stuck. I have six people in my group who need wheelchairs! What is my job? To keep teaching, keep lecturing, keep pointing the way with my flashlight.
I become discouraged when I discover that only 8-10 out of my original 20 make it to the beautiful waterfall at the end of the tunnel. The strugglers have missed it!
Do You feel this way, sometimes, Lord, with Your children? Is that why You continually charge us to be overcomers?
And so I realize that it’s the company’s responsibility, not mine, to make sure the spelunkers sign a waiver saying they are physically and mentally fit for the journey BEFORE they enter the cave. Now that I understand it’s not my fault and that I’m doing all I can do, what do I do with those in wheelchairs that the company requires me to get safely back to the entrance? If I leave them in the cave, it will be pitch black. It’s then that I notice permanent lights along the path. They will have to wait there alone until we send for help, or they can join another tour that’s returning to the entrance. I am at peace. I have done all I can do with the resources I have.
What do you do to regain your peace?