If you had asked me before I moved here what scares me more, teaching or living in a foreign country, I would have answered teaching. If you were to ask me that same question now, I would respond the same.
In truth, both caused my heart to somersault.
Learning to live here challenges me. I feel the sting of homesickness when I get on Facebook and see pictures of autumn returning once more, offering its comfort and chill at the end of a long, hot summer. I feel it when I hear the voices of people I love so dearly, knowing that they are so far away. I feel it when I shuffle through my iTunes music and every other song that plays connects to a memory that time only deepens.
In living here, there isn’t a day that goes by that I’m not learning something new. For that, I am thankful. I wouldn’t trade this precious time for anything in the world. I am presented daily with the opportunity to step outside of my comfort-zone. Yet, at the end of the day, I can return to that place of safety. I can shut my door, turn on music that I can understand and surround myself with pieces of comfort.
I find that, in teaching, I am continuously outside of my comfort-zone. Teaching is a vocation of vulnerability, at least for me. I’m reading a book by Parker J. Palmer called The Courage to Teach. It is both conformational and challenging. He writes about the depth of teaching. He takes the teacher away from the safety nets of technique and training and puts forth the challenge to examine the inner-life.
He writes, “Good teaching cannot be reduced to technique; good teaching comes from the identity and integrity of the teacher.” On the very next page the title of the book is addressed: “Small wonder, then, that teaching tugs at the heart, opens the heart, even breaks the heart–and the more one loves teaching, the more heartbreaking it can be.”
I must admit that I have not yet reached the place where I fully love to teach because, if I am completely honest, I am still very much afraid of it. I am afraid because of my lack of experience. I am afraid because I am constantly faced with my own imperfections and shortcomings. I am afraid because teaching takes me to my limits. It requires everything of me and leaves me exhausted.
I could do less. I could try to make myself care less. I could seek out only comfort-zones and never rise to the challenges I face, whether they be in teaching or learning life here. But I won’t. I won’t because to do so would be to deny myself the depth of life. To do so would be to miss out on all that the God of the universe called me to when he led me here.
Life here oftentimes feel so messy and out of control. Through it all, I am reminded of the consistency of my Savior in ways that are only visible when I move past my fear of inadequacy and into His peace-filled presence.
I want to leave you with one more quote from Palmer’s book. He writes of a quote by Albert Camus that talks of fear giving value to travel. “Camus speaks of the fear we feel when we encounter something foreign and are challenged to enlarge our thinking, our identity, our lives–the fear that lets us know we are on the brink of real learning.”
To face fear is to invite learning. More importantly, it is to invite faith. It is to say, “God, I want to run and hide, but I want to know you more than I want my own comfort.”
I am thankful for the challenges that are placed before me in this season of my life because I know that I am blessed with the richness of His strength and presence.