I seriously believe that every person who has been in ministry work for a while has had the “I quit” moment.
This moment comes when our work begins to feel pointless: So-and-so relapsed back into drugs. That kid got thrown into jail. My favorite woman at the shelter decided to run back to her abusive husband. The orphan I had been nurturing back to health for months died in my arms. These are all real stories that I’ve heard come from the mouths of my friends in ministry, and regardless of your ministry platform, I can guarantee that if you’ve seen these things, or things of that nature, that you’ve had that I quit moment.
Serenity is the 21 year old house mother at a home for women trying to escape homelessness, drug addiction, and domestic violence in Oklahoma. She spoke about her experience last weekend at Nomads saying,
I’ve had women break my heart. In fact, the first woman that I took into the house was also my first heartbreak when she chose to prematurely leave the program and return to life on the streets. I wanted to quit then, but I continued on. A few weeks later, I had a woman pull me into an alley and dig into every insecurity that I’ve ever felt. You’re too young to do this. You think you can run a home? You couldn’t even finish college. You’re stupid. You’re worthless. You’re… You’re… You’re… That day is the day that I tried to quit. I got into my car and instead of driving back to the [mission agency] headquarters, I started driving to Arkansas, where I’m from.
But as I was driving, it hit me. I was leaving everything and going to nothing. I had sold everything I owned. There was nothing left in Arkansas for me. My home was here now. My support system was here. And so I turned around and drove to my friend’s house at the headquarters, sat on his sofa, and cried for the afternoon. Eventually my ‘I quit’ turned into ‘I quit for the day. I don’t quit, but I can’t go back today.’
You see, I can’t quit. I can’t go back to living my old life. I am broken for these women now and there is nothing that could ever fill my heart like the calling that God has given me to live in this home with these women, even when they break me in turn.
Over the last few weeks, I’ve had my fair share of “I quit” moments. Things around the school seem exponentially more difficult than they have during any other fourth quarter I’ve ever seen. And I know that it’s spiritual warfare.
As a staff we are intentionally praying for and with our kids more. More of our kids have come to know Christ than I’ve ever seen in one school year and even more still have begun to seek Him. Students are asking for Bibles to read at home and asking to attend church with us.
These kids are thirsty for God.
And in turn, the devil is pissed.
It’s not something that I can put into words, but I can feel it in the depths of my soul whenever the ish hits the fan.
Part of our jobs is to be close with our students. And I’m not talking “I know each of your academic goals and reading level” close, but the kind of close that happens when you get crying phone calls at 2 am from a teenager and end up on their sofa eating Popsicles and processing life together.
My kids are my life and in turn, they know about my life.
They know my insecurities and weak places. They know where I struggle and stumble, and therefore they know just where to stab me when they are angry.
Because of this, I’ve gotten fairly wounded by the ones that I love as of late. I’ve spend my fair share of time crying in the hallway or in my coworkers’ classrooms.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that my students are the ones attacking me; to be honest, I don’t think they mean to hurt me. But I know the enemy does.
And so with every stab wound, he throws in some salt– the same salt every time. No one likes you. You’re stupid. You’re a b****. How did you get to be a teacher? You’re worthless. You’re too young to do this. God? He’s not using you for anything. You should just give up.
Last Thursday, as I sat in my empty classroom after school and sobbed, I was close to giving up and letting the darkness win. But God has created me to be far too stubborn for that nonsense.
So instead, I quit for the day and after work I bought a floppy sun hat, a pair of gardening gloves, a shovel, and absolutely went to town on weeding the garden of the house that I am currently staying at.
As I yanked plants out of the ground and cried, I also prayed. For my kids. For my coworkers. For my sanity. For protection from all of this insanity.
As I was nearing the end of my weeding mania, I sat against a fence post and took a break. Right then, a gross looking lime green caterpillar crawled onto the fence beside me.
I don’t understand how something so funny looking and gross can turn into something as beautiful as a butterfly. And then my English-teachery brain made a connection:
I love my students, but sometimes they are gross kinda like the caterpillar. No, they don’t ever look that weird (thank goodness) but because they’re still growing into butterflies, their actions and words are weird and gross sometimes. Sometimes they’re pokey and hard to hold onto, just like the creepy wormish thing crawling next to me.
But eventually that weird worm will turn into a butterfly and will be something that will take my breath away. And I know that God will do the same thing with my kiddos.
The darkness will not overcome us. They will grow into the magnificent young men and women that God is planning for them to be and I will be able to say that I survived working with a bunch of gross caterpillars while I sit and bask in the sunshine that will be butterfly season.
Like Serenity, I can’t quit. I love my weird little worms far too much. And in the most beautiful way possible, they’ve ruined my life. I can’t go back to living life without a parade of teenagers following me everywhere. I can’t go back to “normal” because God has called me to something so much more beautiful.
*Ps. Prayers are seriously SO appreciated right now. I know that God is bigger than all of the devil’s tomfoolery, but the onslaught of it is annoying. Prayers for protection and the mending of relationships within the school is also much appreciated. xo, Lou