I’m a connector, so sometimes the most delightful thing is when seemingly little connections become real-life ones. Ginny is that way to me – she was a friend of a friend, but then we somehow met through the mama-writing portals, and found out that we have a whole lot in common. So pull up a comfy chair and enjoy this English teacher-mama-writer’s words today. I promise you will.
I’m a writer and an English teacher, so it’s probably no surprise that English was my favorite class in high school. Romeo and Juliet, The Great Gatsby, Walt Whitman, writing a modern “Canterbury Tale,” analyzing a sonnet: I ate it up, all of it.
But even the subjects we love aren’t always fun. For me, writing five-paragraph essays was at the low end of the English Enjoyment scale. I loved thinking about literature, but pinning down abstract ideas into a thesis statement was challenging. I knew what I wanted to say, but saying it – finding exactly the right words, writing a clear one-sentence argument – was anything but simple.
One day during my junior year, I stayed behind class after class to ask my teacher for help with an essay. I don’t recall the precise thesis I was trying to hammer into submission, only that it involved a comparison of Macbeth and Sir Thomas More from A Man for All Seasons. I presented my spiral-bound notebook of ideas and asked my questions.
Mrs. Tennant listened, nodded, affirmed the basic points of my paper, and told me I was on the right track. Even so, I was stymied by one big piece of evidence about the characters that didn’t fit neatly into my core argument.
“What should I do with this particular point?” I asked her. “It doesn’t seem to work with the other arguments. I’m not sure how to address it in the essay.”
She looked at me and smiled. “You’ll figure it out,” she told me. “I have faith in you.”
I have faith in you.
I won’t deny that I was initially disappointed not to receive The Answer from the expert. But I recognized that there was an implied vote of confidence in her response.
“Okay,” I said, closing my notebook. “I’ll think about it some more.”
And I did. I thought and scribbled and wrote margin notes all over my notebook and, sure enough, I eventually broke through the wall of my confusion. I wrote the paper, I got a grade that made me very happy, and I never ever forgot the words she said to me: I have faith in you.
As a teacher myself now (and as a mom of two young kids), I’ve realized that sometimes the best thing I can do is back off and keep the answer to myself. It’s not always easy. We all crave instant solutions, and making someone else blaze his or her own trail through confusion can feel downright mean, especially if I already see the answer clearly. Isn’t it kinder to give my first-grader the homework answer rather than making him struggle? Isn’t it more helpful to supervise every step of my student’s essay-writing process rather than make her go it alone?
But when you have to work for an answer, you own it. You learn from the process of thinking and processing. And when someone else makes you do the work yourself, it’s actually a compliment: They are letting you do it because they know you can.
I’m starting to realize that all this connects to my faith, too. So much of life is murky, not clear. When challenges rock my world, be they personal or professional, it’s so easy to pray, Okay, God, give me the answer I seek. Right now. Just tell me.
But I never get an immediate answer written in the sky. Instead, I keep praying for guidance, and I keep living my life and thinking and putting the pieces together and trying out new perspectives, and eventually, clarity comes to me. Grace is a part of the process, of course, but there’s also heavy lifting involved, usually more than I want.
I don’t think this is about God being lazy or liking to see me stew. I think this is about God knowing that the answers will mean more if I have to work at them a bit first. I think it must be God saying, gently and lovingly, “You have faith in me, but I also have faith in you.”
So more and more, I try to let those words guide me when others come to me for help. I don’t always do a good job of it, for many reasons. But when I remember being sixteen years old and having a forty-something woman look me in the eye and say I have faith in you, I recognize the power of those five little words. She only said them once, but they’ve been echoing ever since.
Ginny Kubitz Moyer is a teacher, a writer, and a mom of two little boys whose energy constantly astounds her (if moms could siphon off their kids’ energy, how cool would that be?). She is the author of three books, including Random MOMents of Grace: Experiencing God in the Adventures of Motherhood. Check out her blog RandomActsofMomness.com for musings on faith, books, British costume dramas, and how to find grace in the mess. …it’s Cara again, and hey, I have faith in you, too! Leave Ginny a CHEERS-filled comment today. Also, check back here on THURSDAY for an interview with Ginny on her new book, with TWO copies up for giveaway!