Monday, January 28, 2013

Planting Seeds in the Face of Discouragement and Then, a Shooting

Maybe it was transitioning back to our work and home routines after a three-day getaway with my family, but this morning felt as gray as the skies. It snowed as I drove to work and then it rained while I was teaching classes. I teach struggling learners and I like to think I make a difference. But today was a day when I felt discouraged. What am I doing wrong? What can I do differently? How can I help each and every student want to learn and succeed at learning?

By lunchtime, I realized my discouragement is merely a mask for my pride. My discouragement is based on the misguided notion that I and I alone am responsible for whether a student put in front of me for 44-minute period each day wants to learn and is successful at doing so.

In other words, I labor under the foolish idea that my efforts, generated entirely by me, make the difference. Instead, as a Christian, I know there is a Someone who generated me, who called me by name into this life and who is my constant presence and companion.

What is my task then? To plant seeds and to understand we never will see them bear fruit. This is not only the journey of a teacher, but it is the journey of anyone willing to be fully human.

The Bible has 47 references to planting seeds. That is one epic simile! We are not here to harvest; we are here to prepare the ground and to plant seeds.

The seed sowing reference I know best is told by Christ in the Book of St. Matthew.

“A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path, and birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky ground, where it had little soil. It sprang up at once because the soil was not deep, 6and when the sun rose it was scorched, and it withered for lack of roots. Some seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it. But some seed fell on rich soil, and produced fruit, a hundred or sixty or thirty-fold. Whoever has ears ought to hear.” 

My day took another turn as I left for home. As I drove out of the high school parking lot this afternoon, the rain was pouring. I passed through the upscale suburban subdivision that surrounds the school and was curious about the police cars blocking a section of the neighborhood.

I learned later that police this morning discovered the bodies of a husband and a wife, shot dead in an apparent murder-suicide. The idea that one of them found life so unbearable that eliminating both their lives felt like the only option, saddens me profoundly. That it took place so close to a place of learning startles me. The couple, both Catholics, is survived by their son and daughter, who are college students.

The suffering we experience in this life, whether real or self-imposed, whether transient or permanent, does not deprive our lives of meaning and value.

Merciful God, help us remember that you walk with us always. You are our constant companion and our souls will find rest only with you.  May you show your mercy to this man and woman and bring comfort to their children.



  1. So sad. I join you in your prayers.

  2. Allison, two thoughts. One is from Oscar Romero, one of my favorite prayers:

    The other is this: sometimes our moods are not so much personal as they are a reflection of what is going on in the world.

    1. Shannon: Thank you. You know, I thought of that - as far as my mood. Do you mean the deaths - that I somehow sensed that? Or do you mean the reality in front of me in the classroom?

  3. Both, probably, but this stuff about being the Body of Christ where we live? I think it's true. And just as Jesus knew when power went out of him, you know by walking into a classroom that things are just a bit off, so I'm never surprised when we are conscious of the "heaviness of spirit" that is part of the atmosphere in which we move.

  4. I also think there is a certain truth to that -- about our moods. And yes, I think some of us also sense and pick up on the moods of others, though whether this is a natural gift (curse) or by some design of God for certain times, I just don't know.

  5. Allison, I join you in prayer. Keep courage on the journey, faith in your heart, and trust in God through all you do. As a young educator ( yes, lacking so much experience) I often have the same sentiments...I try to remember that aside from content that we must get through to fulfill our vocation in the classroom...we must always remember as Christians that the most important seeds we plant in these impressionable minds are of love. They learn much more from who we are than what we teach. I am sure you do your fair share of planting some wonderful seeds :) blessings to you!

    1. Celeste: your words are a balm. Thank you. I have read them many times and they really resonate with my beliefs.