Friday, May 13, 2011

Give It All To God

“I’m a failure.”

I know, this is a pathological thing with me. It’s time for some mental exercises. In fact, it’s time for some physical exercise: a good walk around the neighborhood in the breezy late afternoon with Teresa. Time to think of my blessings, time to love my wife and my children, time to do the work that has been given to me. Study. Reflect and make judgments. Write. Or just try to get better.

It’s time for some spiritual exercises. Listen to your spiritual director: this idea of failure does not come from God. Pray, “Jesus, I trust in You completely.” “Come Holy Spirit.” Take your mind off yourself. Up, up, up, eyes off yourself, look to God, look to others. Mary, dear Mary.

The failure monster still hovers around, like a heavy atmosphere pressing against me.

I miss the past. I miss my classroom. “You will be a great teacher,” said Msgr. Giussani. So I taught. I taught my heart out. The fact is, I often felt like a failure even as a teacher. What difference was I really making? I was never one of the “rock stars” at the college. I wasn’t a name that buzzed on students’ lips. There were a few, every year, who saw something–they appreciated my effort (our poor human frailty, alas, always likes to be appreciated)–but more importantly they “caught on,” they understood what I was seeing; sometimes they saw it even better than I did. This is the thing that a teacher really loves.

Too many, however, were just bored. I tried, I tried so hard for you kids. I wanted to shake you and say, "look at this, look at how beautiful it is!" If only you knew, dear students. I wanted you all to see it.

In any case, I did my job well. But my health broke down. And I felt like a failure.

“You will be a great teacher.” How? When?

When I can, I make good use of this long and strange sabbatical. I’ve written a book. I’m writing another. I study assiduously. I try to understand the world I live in, and God’s plan for it. I seek to communicate through new channels. But I’m not going to kid you: some days are just plain washouts. “It” just doesn’t get done. And if someone tells me I need to go exercise on a day like that I’m going to tell them to shut up....

“I feel like a failure.”

Give it all to God.

I think everyone feels like a failure in some aspect of their lives. Maybe God has brought me to this condition so as to awaken compassion in me for others. God still loves me in my failure. His love is deep and fundamental: He loves me, period. No conditions. But he also manifests this love in my life, in our family life. Without the failure of my teaching career, my wife never would have gotten her training and certification and become the wonderful Montessori teacher that she is today. She is a great teacher. And our family has grown closer. Perhaps more important than anything else is the fact that we are keenly aware that we are not the ones who are in control....

I know that the words, “God loves you” are not cheap. In these days I hear with compassion about people who lose their jobs. People who are sick. People who are struggling with all sorts of problems. People who just don’t think that what they do is worthwhile.

I think I can say this without being cheap: “Give it all to God. He loves you.”