For one of my classes, we were tasked to start conversations with our community about the themes we learned about. The hope was to not simply study theology, but actively engage in it within the urban context. I wrote about the discussions my students partook in about their family, values, and aspirations. I presented my findings to my classmates. Despite feelings of anxiety, I found sharing what I learned from my students made their words much more significant. After presenting, the floor was open for questions.
“What was your lightbulb moment?” I was asked. “Like what was the moment you realized that this is exactly where God wants you to be?”
I mulled over the question.
“There is a couple that lives a few blocks away from work named Jeff and Jacqueline. They have lived in the community for years and actually know a few of my students. They planted a church close by and open their home to their neighbors. A couple of weeks ago, Jacqueline shared with me something my student told her. He said that when he walks into my classroom, he feels like he is in a home. At first, I was upset. I wanted him to feel like my classroom felt like home, but then I realized that maybe home isn’t a place he wants to be, but a home is what he needed.”
And that’s when it struck me. This small moment, one that I wasn’t even present for, was spurred from millions of others. It was a result of moments of doubt, frustration, and disappointment held together by moments of joy over small victories. Being a teacher is not easy. Sometimes I struggle with the desire to control the actions and decisions of my students because I desire the best for them. And I have come to understand that good healthy relationships aren’t built upon dominance and manipulation. They grow from grace and authenticity and time.
I think time is frequently overlooked as a key factor in relationships. We want friendships, work relationships and romantic relationships to happen effortlessly. I think we undervalue the awkward moments we will have when we attempt to live life with another person. We want to move past the struggles and skip straight to the good parts. But I have to remind myself that patience and faithfulness produce greater results than commitment only when it’s convenient.
I wondered why I lived in Los Angeles for a solid year after I moved here. I pondered what my purpose was in a place I had no connection to. It made no sense to stay. But I did. In a transient city like LA, it is easy to move from apartment to apartment or from job to job. I think change is good and inevitable, and we need to embrace it. But there is also good in consistency. I think when we find a good place to live, a good place to work, a good community, we should invest ourselves there.
stay. stay. stay.
Recently, I received an email informing me that the international option of the grad school program I am a part of will be postponed another year. I applied with the intention of serving abroad, however, sometime in the first semester, I had decided that I was going to stay even if the program was available. This came as a surprise to me as I had planned to move to Manila for a year and a half. But God kept reminding me of my purpose in LA through working with my students and cultivating community.
A tree can only bear fruit if the roots are grown. This cannot occur if the tree is uprooted all the time. Given, trees do not move unless by human force, but aren’t we a lot like trees anyways?