Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Expire (08/01/13)
TITLE: All-Surpassing Strength
By Renee Gingery
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Recalling the week full of incessant questioning, complaining, nagging, and know-it-all attitudes, I breathed a sigh of relief; silently celebrating another five days of survival in the sea of high school hormones. I glanced up, and twenty-four eager eyes gazed back, waiting in anticipation for my routine command: “Make sure you have saved your work… log out of your account… shut down your computer and please make sure it is plugged into the right spot.”
Murmurs turned to yelps as realization took hold: the weekend had finally arrived. Feeling the same emotions as my students, I shut down my laptop and stuffed it in my bag atop the overflowing stack of papers I needed to grade over the weekend; a norm for a language arts teacher.
As my students prepared to leave, I stirred up a few conversations about their weekend plans. My curiosity, though sincere in nature, masked the exhaustion I was hiding on the inside. I was spent. The week had been long, with mounds of papers seeming to grow exponentially the moment they were placed on my desk. It was my first full week back after maternity leave, and my little papoose had yet to figure out that sleep was to his benefit.
Anticipating the bell, everyone began to pile up near the door -- seeming to push each other into the weekend. The Pavlovian response to the familiar ringing came seconds later and the mass of teenagers heaved itself into the hallway...all except one. I could tell from her sunken shoulders and somber face that she needed to talk. Her behavior lately had been abnormal, but rather than question it, I wanted her to approach me when she was ready. And ironically, she was ready today. Friday. Doctor’s appointment day. I sighed to myself and sent up a quick prayer. Lord, help me to be patient. Apparently, you are not in any hurry today as am I. Let the words I speak be yours and not my own.
Knowing that I wasn’t a fan of excuses, she slowly turned her sullen eyes toward my own and began her explanation. Her reasons for her late work, poor scores, and lack of attendance were not an excuse but a reality: a rocky home life...single mom…limited income…another teenager playing the role of the parent. Her transparency was disarming. Though plagued with exhaustion, I silently thanked God for the opportunity before me.
I knew she was determined to survive her situation, but life had taken a turn for the worst and she found herself struggling to dig out of the wreckage. Her schooling was taking the biggest hit. Her meek voice screamed of the crushing weight she was carrying, and tears appeared in the corners of her lost eyes.
I thought about my own fatigue and how worn out I had become. Going on four hours of sleep, a full-time mom of four, teaching by day and continuing work into the late night had me drained, yet when I compared my circumstances to hers, I was humbled. My heart ached for her. The only thing I could compare was the source of our strength. Knowing that I can do all things through Him who gives me strength helped push me past what was humanly possible. My overwhelmed student’s source had tapped out.
Those few shared moments in the vacant classroom passed quickly, and she became aware of the time that remained before she had to leave. Wrapping her into a hug, I was led to pray. “Lord, please watch over this child. You know the circumstances she is in and that they are temporary. Give her Your strength to persevere. Guard her and protect her. In Your precious and holy name, amen.”
As she walked back into the trenches and I headed towards my appointment, my earlier exhaustion subsided and a newfound strength began to grow within. Thank you, Lord, for a beautiful beginning to my weekend.
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