Let me tell you about Belize.
The first thing you need to know is that I did not want to write this blog post tonight. I am mentally, emotionally and physically drained, and feeling really not ready to take on this week. But I just had a wonderful surprise conversation with my friend Tina, which convinced me that taking time to process the past week and take that experience with me as my life moves forward is exactly what I need to be doing tonight.
The second thing you need to know is that I am really terrible at sports. I actually cannot express to you how bad I am at playing soccer. My last week was spent in Belize, where EVERYONE is good at soccer. So naturally, I spent my time sitting on the sidelines with the younger kids during the soccer games up until last Wednesday night, when my friend Jordan decided to get a soccer game together with some of our other mission teammates and the older kids in the village. I figured I had nothing to lose, and I decided to join in, which is when my friend and teammate Ian began telling the kids what a great soccer player I was. Instead of playing along with the joke, I felt super insecure. And uncomfortable. And mostly like the last thing on the planet that I wanted to do was play in this soccer game. Because I am really and truly not good at soccer in the slightest. But when I said “Ian, I can’t play soccer!” he replied, “Yes you can – beauty in the common, let’s go!”
The joke goes back to this post, where I talked about Beauty in the Common when I outlined my ideas and purposes for this corner of the Internet I call a blog. Ian is the connection I have to the project. But also, I don’t think he was kidding when he said that. A soccer game is pretty common, especially in Belize. And he probably didn’t know how insecure I was actually feeling, but insecurity is pretty common, too.
The reason I’m telling this story is because I think to realize that was a big moment for me. Y’all, I really hate sports. That’s because they make me feel incapable and inadequate and insecure. I also really struggled last semester, because it made me incapable and inadequate and insecure. These are three super important words because they are positive attributes with “in” stuck on the front to make them negative.
As a human, I am frequently incapable, inadequate and insecure. But when I embrace my identity as a daughter of God and do things that are hard, He has the power to make me incapable, inadequate and insecure. God knows that our emotions of weakness are pretty common, and He wants us to experience something different by walking with Him. Something powerful.
The third thing you need to know from this truth is that I headed off to work at a high school called Muffles College in Orange Walk Town expecting to tutor individual students in English, and ended up walking into the greatest weakness I’ve ever experienced. My teammate Tom and I were handed off to a classroom of 30 students handpicked to receive help with their thesis statements for an upcoming speech and I was told to teach. I am studying to be a teacher, but I have never in my life stood in front of a room of students and taught. In that moment, I gave up all control to God because I had no idea what I was doing, and the Holy Spirit switched on an autopilot that I didn’t know I had.
I found out I was able to use what the students knew about their assignment to determine how best to help them. When we started, only about 6 of the students had a topic to write about, but by the time we left after an hour, every student had picked a subject they were passionate about and had begun to craft their thesis statements. While Tom took over the front of the room and helped them brainstorm topics, I worked through the room one student at a time and discussed their ideas with them, helping them come up with their three main points and connect them by a purpose statement in a single sentence. I found out I was able to ask the right questions to make sure it was their words and their ideas on the paper, while also correcting grammar and sentence structure and injecting life into what could have been just another boring speech. The next day, about fifteen of the students came back, some with sentences and some with outlines. By the third day, every one of those fifteen came back with an outline and we started to write introduction paragraphs, outlines, and body paragraphs. Every day I left the classroom knowing with a certainty I’ve rarely known that teaching is not just my passion, but my purpose. I left feeling capable, adequate and secure. I haven’t felt those three things in awhile, and it was really powerful for me.
I came back from Belize yesterday knowing that God had a bigger plan for me than the end of a relationship, changing friendships, and challenging schoolwork. But that didn’t stop me from feeling completely overwhelmed by all of the things n life I have to juggle when I got back to Vanderbilt tonight. I missed the peace that I felt in Belize, with my teammates, with my friends in San Antonio, and with my God. I started wondering if maybe I don’t put this burden on myself, in a way I never thought that I did, to be capable, adequate and secure by my own accord. I can’t be sad all the time, so I need to move forward with my life. I can’t be lonely all the time, so I need to address and change my emotions. I can’t do less than my best in my schoolwork, so I need to stay up late, plan ahead, and analyze every grade I get to improve.
There’s a lot of I’s in that paragraph, yeah? I realized this week that I think about myself a lot. That’s valid, because in order to live life, you have to think in the first person. But my life could be much richer and fuller if I replaced some of those thoughts – the ones where I worry, I control – with trust in God’s truth. My identity as a daughter of God tells me that when I am weak, He is strong. I feel weak more in my everyday life than I did any moment this past week in Belize, and I am positive that is because I make a constant choice to shoulder my own burden, and don’t incorporate trust in God’s truth into the way I think and the things that I do. This fits nicely with our theme verse for the trip – it’s not the things I can control, but God’s name alone that I can trust in.
Tomorrow morning I don’t get to wake up and have half-conscious conversations with my teammates, who have all become very dear friends in the past week, first thing in the morning. But I can get up and have half-conscious conversations with God. I don’t get to go to school and read with the kids who have so much of my heart. But I get to go to class and do what God’s planned for me all day long, and share that calling with like-minded friends. I don’t get to go back to Muffles College, but I get to go to practicum on Tuesday at a different high school, and who knows what’s in store for me there? We won’t meet as a team at the end of the day but tomorrow night I have chapter and I get to hug every single one of my beautiful sisters in Christ.
So if you made it this far, thanks for reading. This is me processing what God’s taught me from my third trip to a small village that holds the most incredible experiences of my entire life. God is good, all the time, and all the time, God is good. Tomorrow is Monday and these are the words I am living by.