The Hands of the Father
Posted: Wed, 16 Dec 2020 15:09
In this week's Catholic Teacher Article, Mike reflects on Duetronomy 1:3, and explores how it has helped him cope with what has been a very tough year.
Recently I attended a retreat—it was over the October break—due to the restrictions it was conducted via Zoom. My retreat master was a wise Jesuit. On our first session, this saintly soul asked me how I was feeling. My reply was, ''I am angry! I am angry that so many young people live in poverty. I am angry that many families are struggling to survive. I am angry that Ofsted seem to crucify the schools that serve in areas of deprivation.'' I went on and on, letting this poor man have it "both barrels". He simply smiled and invited me to meditate on Deuteronomy 1:3:
And in the wilderness. There you saw how the LORD your God carried you, as a father carries his son, all the way you went until you reached this place.
I did, and in doing so, I went for a walk along the Leeds and Liverpool Canal. Walking on this autumn day, things became clear. I had a rare moment of clarity.
''And in the wilderness''. 2020 has seemed like a wilderness—a barren and inhospitable environment. Teaching in this wilderness has been hard and, at times, painful. Delivering food, vouchers, work, and the stress of worrying about the pupils has been hard. The fear of catching COVID-19, and the worry about my own family has been agonising. The pain of seeing how hard life has been for many has been a wilderness that has often been too hard to take.
''There you saw how the LORD your God carried you''. There have been times when the difficulties of the pandemic have been too much to bear. In these moments, I have given everything to the Lord, whilst also asking the Divine to take the pain of the present times away from me. In these moments I have been reassured that if God's love is infinitely greater than any human expression of love, then He must feel our pains infinitely more than we do. This is the greatest expression of His love. Surely the crucifixion reflects this. When I empty everything out and offer it to God, I feel the love of God in all things, including the pains and the joys. God is the One who carries me in all things.
''As a father carries his son''. The loving hands of God have been the one constant in the current wilderness. These sacred hands have streaked across the cosmos to hold, heal and console. They have been the hands of the children whom I teach, and the hands of the staff who have worked tirelessly for the students. When we use our hands for agapic acts of love, charity and mercy, we become the body of Christ. Teachers carry children, like the Father holds his creation with hands of perfect love.
''All the way you went until you reached this place". This place—the place I am in—the place that the loving hands of God have carried me to is teaching. This is a blessing and a gift, a gift that I simply do not deserve. In wrestling with trying to understand the doctrine of grace, the only way I can truly make sense of it is to say that God freely gives us what we do not deserve. Yet it is still given as an act of pure unselfish love. God has given me the gift of children. Children let you into their lives and allow you to walk with them. What a blessing. Teaching is a challenging vocation. 2020 has presented teachers with even more challenges, and like many I have had my doubts, my dark night of the soul when I have thought "can I still do this?" And since my October retreat, I have reflected on the words of Deuteronomy 1:3, concluding that God has brought me here. The Lord gently placed me at the service of young people. No one said it would be easy. Nothing ever is.
If I could give any teacher one bit of advice, it would be to spend time with this piece of scripture. Take the time to see what God is asking of you in the current situation. Meditate on what God is calling you to do in the future. Whatever the answer, know this: the loving hands of God are carrying you.
He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms
and carries them close to his heart; He gently leads those that have young.
Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash