Tag Archives: children

“Wonder”, Baby Boys, and the Finding of Jesus at the Temple

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This is Reesa. The last post I wrote (or even attempted to write) was July 3, 2013. I’m proud of myself for making it with this post before July 3 of this year. Woohoo!

I made a Lenten promise (resolution?) that I would read the daily readings every day and write a short (really short) reflection on those readings. It’s only been two weeks, but I’ve already failed a pretty significant percent of that time. It was looking like today was going to be one of those days–and I was kind of okay with that. By 3:30 I hadn’t even looked at the readings. But maybe St. Joseph interceded for me or something, because I picked up my phone (I use the Laudate app to look up and/or listen to the readings) this afternoon and had one of the most fruitful experiences with the readings I’ve had in months. I wanted to share it with you here, in case you’re interested!

The reading I focused on was Lk 2:41-51a–the Finding of Jesus at the Temple. Specifically, this line caught my attention: When his parents saw him, they were astonished, and his mother said to him, “Son, why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety.”

Here’s what I wrote about it:

This Gospel reading really surprises me, because it shows Mary reproaching Jesus and telling him that she suffered from real anxiety because of his choice. I’ve also always thought it was weird that the Gospels pick up on this story as somehow significant. One of the best homilies I ever heard was about this strange, strange incident. The priest talked about how it revealed Jesus’ psychological adolescence.’ According to this priest, when Jesus says, “Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” he’s actually coming to grips with his (very complex!) identity, grappling with it… and hurting a few people (particularly those people most wrapped up in that identity–his parents) in the process. In short, he’s going through adolescence. The priest pointed out that Jesus took on our humanity even to the point of mental and psychological humanity. He underwent the (horrible) experience of psychological maturation, just like we do.

The priests point, I think, was that this incident is significant because Christ begins to consciously accept his role as the Son of God. I thought it was significant because that even had to happen. Somehow, I had always thought baby Jesus was born knowing He was the Son of God. And this priest didn’t say he wasn’t. He just implied that Jesus came to know it more fully around this point in his life.

* * *

Last night I started reading this book “Wonder” by R.J. Palacio. I absolutely love it. It’s multiple-perspective, first-person middle school literature, which might be my absolute favorite. Long story short: the narrators (so far) are a 10 year old boy who’s severely deformed and his 14-year old sister. The boy has been home schooled his whole life because of his various medical needs, but he’s starting to go to school for the first time in 5th grade (yikes…). Middle school is always hard, but it’s that much worse for this boy because of how he looks. Auggie (the boy) is in a lot of pain… and you see, through his eyes and his sister’s, how much pain he causes his mother specifically–both by her experience of his humiliation and alienation at school and just by the way he treats her sometimes as he’s trying to figure out who he is and how to live.

As I was reading, I kept thinking about my baby boy (due early June) and how hard it will be to ever see him in pain or (as is bound to happen) watch him semi-purposely inflict pain on me. It’s hard to think about.

But I came to a couple of realizations after reading the Gospel today. First, Christ has conquered adolescence. He’s been through even this cross.  Second, Auggie causes his mother a lot of pain–but it’s not because he’s evil or because he hates her or because he’s never going to be kind to her again. He’s causing her pain because he’s… well, trying to figure out who he is. And your parents inevitably have a lot to do with that. They get caught in the line of fire, and that’s okay. Or, if it’s not okay, it’s something that Mary, the Mother of God, has, in some way, gone through through too. I didn’t think I would be able to have recourse to Mary in motherhood because, well, Michael Patrick is not going to be Jesus. But after today, maybe I will.

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Oh the Humility!

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Hello there. Excuse me as I completely fail to explain my two and a half month absence from the blogosphere (aside from saying “Teaching is time consuming.”)

This is my very special attempt to jump back in. Bear with me, it’s gonna be rough at first.

Teaching is a heady thing. For instance, on Thursday I received an unusual amount of compliments.

If I were a naturally humble or sane person, this would not have been a problem. Unfortunately, I am neither humble nor sane, so every one of those suckers went directly to my head. From compliment to ego-trip in less than 8 seconds! There might as well have been bouquets and tiaras so far as I was concerned.

Teacher of the year! Coming through! I am making a difference! I am molding the minds of young people!

Anyone who knows me at all should know what comes next –  HUMILITY FACE PLANT OF DOOM!

Which brings us to Friday.

On Friday, I agreed to play for the faculty in a Varsity v. Faculty volleyball game. Not to brag, but I have (had) a mean serve. Also, because I am not short I have (ahem HAD) a decent spike. So, of course, I was teasingly trash-talking my students. Because I am Awesome Teacher-Lady who  can do no wrong and at one time  was not entirely uncoordinated! Obviously.

Then they trounced us.

I was not happy.  And amidst my unhappiness, I realized that the fall had only just begun. Not only Because I  cared (a lot) and wanted to win (a lot) and bragged (A LOT), but also for some thing even worse.

You see, I realized that Normal-Me has a solid set of evasions for just such an embarrassing occasions.

Option #1, we have the itemized list of all the reasons this was a ridiculous contest:

  1. They had been practicing for 6 months.
  2. We did not know we had a team until the day before.
  3. The other teachers didn’t communicate.
  4. My shoulder went numb.
  5. One of the male teachers kept stealing my spikes.
  6. Etc.

Or Option #2, the classic: “It’s not like we were really trying.

Yes. You can hate me, because that option actually occurred to me. It occurred to me to pull the “not trying” card on a group of 17-year-old girls. Whom I teach. Whose minds and emotional well-being is at least partially under my protection. (Did I mention that  I do not like to fail? I do not like it at all.)

You see, the real problem with all of this was not the volleyball shame, but the panic-inducing pride that took over my brain. Fortunately, I am a teacher. And you know what is the best and worst thing about teaching? My students’ faces.

The are like tiny post-it notes reminding me exactly how terrible of a person I am for considering the options above, and how much more terribleI would be if I used any of the options above. Which I probably would, if they were not my students. Curse their tiny impressionable faces for alerting me to and protecting me from my tendency toward  sin, pride and general badness!

How, you might ask? By noticing.

Please imagine Eyeore saying this.

That is what students do. That is ALL students do. No more, and no less. Try though I may, I do not mould their minds or make them who they will be; wish though I might,  they are not oblivious or impervious to my failings. They simply notice what I say and do. 

So this is the blessed and stinging enforced humility on my plate for tomorrow. I get to go in and try to say: “Congratulations! You destroyed us. Yes, I apparently have lost all skill at volleyball, along with the sensation in my right shoulder. Also, I seem to have totally misinterpreted the passage we talked about on Thursday. Now please open your books and try to remember a fraction of the material we talked about on Friday.”

That really should not be hard, but it is.

So, thank God for teaching and for my students. May they never be in as desperate need of  a spiritual smack down as I so frequently am. Because humility FREAKING STINGS!