Sunday, November 27, 2011

Keeping Up The Struggle

I have already spoken in previous posts about my conversation with Fr. Luigi Giussani many years ago, and how he grabbed me by the arm and looked at me and said, “Be a teacher. You will be a great teacher.” This meeting had a powerful influence on my dedicating my life to the teaching profession, and working with a generation’s worth of college students. It was a great time of my life, and I seemed to be successful and satisfied.

But the path of my life was not destined to be so straightforward. Illness changed the course of things, and may yet do so again. For I do not know the long term impact that this disease will have on me. Perhaps I shall improve, or perhaps I shall get worse. Sometimes, there are disturbing signs that the future may be more, rather than less debilitating. I try to focus on the circumstances and opportunities of the present.

But in the last days of November, as students turn in term papers and prepare for final exams, and as I struggle through a difficult week, I realize that I’m still dealing with the trauma of being taken out of the work environment that I loved the most, where I was established and appreciated. One day I was told, "You can't do this anymore. You're too sick." 

I know that God has a reason for all of this. He has a plan. Fr. Giussani didn't say to me "you might be a great teacher." He said, "you WILL be a great teacher." Whatever this "greatness" is, I am doing everything I can to open myself up to make room for it to work in me and through me and to be expressed.

That includes the past seven years of fighting a disease that is more than depression and anxiety. I have seen the Lyme disease infection that is in my body; I have seen it magnified under a microscope. I have also experienced its devastating effects on my life. We have tried everything from intensive antibiotics to all manner of natural remedies. Right now we seem to have the upper hand (mostly from nature, although some meds are just necessary), but there are no magic buttons that will make things all better. It’s a struggle. Sometimes I get down about it. Sometimes I feel frustrated, and I take it out on others. I am truly sorry for this, and I beg forgiveness from anyone I may have let down. But I'm determined to keep up the struggle. I'm never giving up. 

I'm going to teach if I have to do it from bed. As a person I have my failings, but I know what my mission in this world is, and I think even my failings are used by God in its service, somehow. I will be a teacher, even if I do it primarily through writing. Maybe writing is my best talent.

It is where I am called to apply myself at the present time, and to recognize the goodness of God, who offers Himself to me in every circumstance, and bids me to help form this awareness in others. After all, that is the heart of what it means to be a teacher. God is good. This is the conviction that grows more deeply in me, through the days and years and trials.

1 comment:

Allison said...

Good for you to expand the notion of "teacher," just as couples who struggle with infertility need to expand their understanding of what maternity and paternity are.

On a practical note, John, I have done a great deal of teaching online, through accredited universities. I have worked with men and women in the armed services who are serving our country AND earning degrees. Food for thought.