I woke up at 3:25 AM today after a fitful night’s sleep that was far too short. I tried convincing myself to just roll over and go back to sleep, but these days that’s not so easy.
Sometimes the things we know we need to do are the hardest to actually accomplish.
All of fourth quarter, my Creative Worship kids have been sort of drifting through classes, often distracted, but always with a positive attitude. Each Thursday we start with a devotion led by one of the students. And each Thursday, it seemed like we collectively felt the weight of the end of the quarter pressing heavier every time we met. I have 6 Seniors in the class who are waking up to their last day of high school as I write this. One other student in the class is leaving Faith Academy this year to return to another mission field, and I am leaving as well. There is only one student among the 9 of us who is not leaving, but even he knows the agony of the end of an era. He’s a survivor of the Yolanda typhoon 6 months ago… He of all people, he surely knows what it’s like to leave some place familiar, not knowing when (or if) you’ll ever be back.
I recently took a personality test called the Myers-Briggs. I’d taken it a few times before, but interestingly enough, my “type” has changed since coming to the mission field. I used to think things like personality tests were inaccurate or incomplete, but as I sit here, wide awake at 4 AM, this is the best explanation I have. For those who know the test, I qualify as an INFJ, which is apparently the rarest combination of traits, statistically speaking. The letters stand for Introvert, Intuition , Feeling, and Judgment. If you read a description, this type is often said to be highly intuitive – to just naturally “know” stuff without much of an indicator at all. INFJ’s also have an ability to literally “feel for” other people. It’s not the same as sympathy or empathy, and it’s not just a polite “I understand how you feel.” It’s a literal feeling of having taken on someone else’s grief, anger, pain, or mourning in an effort to share it so they don’t have to walk alone. This is why I’m awake—not because I’m rested, not because I’m frantically busy with stuff to do, but because something in my heart and mind is grieving and “feeling for” these kids before their day has even begun. And if I’m honest, something in my heart is grieving about leaving as well.
There’s a wonderful advantage to being a young teacher to high school students: they’ll actually (sort of) listen to what I have to say, because it really wasn’t very long ago that I was making a similar transition. All semester (okay, honestly, the entire time I’ve been at Faith), I’ve been using my age to my advantage as much as possible. But early this semester, this batch of Worship kids recognized that we are an odd group because literally all of us were thinking we wouldn’t be here next year.
For once, I couldn’t be these kids’ teacher; I sort of became their peer who is also in transition.
Saying goodbye really isn’t new to most of the kids I teach. With a school that turns over 25-35% of it’s staff every year and with kids constantly coming and going to literally all corners of the earth, no one here is a stranger to the process of wrapping up a life in another country only to unpack and wrap it up later somewhere else. But it’s still sort of new to me. Living in the same town, attending the same school with the same people, and even complaining about the same things gave my life an order and stability totally unknown to most of these kids. I’ve really only said goodbye a small handful of times, but those times, they really hurt.
Since transition is a lesson I’m not strong enough to lead, today I will be their student and we will learn together how to say goodbye. I want to make the most of the opportunities I have to connect with these kids before all our worlds get tipped up-side-down. I want to walk with them to the end of their time and send them out well. I can’t give them a rubric or checklist, and I certainly can’t correct what’s wrong, but I can walk with them.
Maybe that’s what this was all about to begin with. Maybe, I was just another student, called overseas by another Teacher, to walk with some kids who are hitting a path totally foreign to all of us.
The students at Faith Academy seemed to really connect with the song “Oceans (Where Feet May Fail)” by Hillsong over the course of this year. Here are some of the lyrics:
You call me out upon the water, the great unknown, where feet may fail
And there I find You in the mystery in oceans deep, my faith will stand.
And I will call upon Your name, and keep my eyes above the waves when oceans rise.
My soul will rest in Your embrace for I am Yours and You are mine.
Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders.
Let me walk upon the water wherever You would call me.
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger in the presence of my Savior.