Merry Christmas and happy holidays from Thailand! This week has been a breath of fresh air, as there are midterm exams at school and there has been little to do, with early days all week.
Many days as of late (before this week), I have found myself weary, tired and exhausted. Speaking over the noise with a raised voice to a classroom of 25-40 students, some or many of whom may not care or pay attention, makes for one of the most draining jobs I have ever had (on certain days at least). But there are those classes that are quite well behaved and attentive, which helps maintain balance, and allows for a breath. It is sometimes a great challenge to engage students and present a good lesson. It takes surrender to disallow those classes that simply go terrible to become accumulated weight. Some days it takes a conscious effort to push aside anxiety and stress towards the upcoming day, and to allow myself to rest, wait, listen, and pray. Some days are a fog, some days are exciting, some days are mundane, and some days are adventurous.
For the most part, my tendency is to shy away from situations, contexts and circumstances where I may be uncomfortable and in unfamiliar territory. I am currently teaching English as a second language in Phayao, Thailand. In coming to Thailand, I committed to something completely foreign (literally) when I decided to complete a TESOL course and take a job as an English teacher at a Thai Secondary School (called “Mathayom” in Thai, the equivalent of Middle School and High School). Each week, I’m teaching communicative English for 23 class periods to around 700 students, give or take. When I started, I was overwhelmed, sometimes anxious, uncomfortable, and in unfamiliar territory, submerged in many of the situations and emotions I often try to avert. It didn’t always feel good, and sometimes it still doesn’t. But in leaving the comforts of home, I knew I needed to do something that would challenge me and cause growth, maturity, and character development in ways that would not occur in a familiar place. I needed to “buck” my tendency to go downstream and take the path of least resistance. I needed to be more than a “backpacker” and invest myself into something, somewhere, not letting myself off the hook to simply do as I please. Travel and adventure are often quite easy, because they require little commitment. Commitment itself is difficult, because it requires something from us — faith, sacrifice, perseverance, selflessness, patience, and self-awareness.
If I would have never put myself in this position, I would be missing all the present opportunities to grow in my experiences of joy, struggle, maturity, relapse, victory, wrestling, new friendships, loneliness, adventure, the mundane, faith and trust, doubt and uncertainty, and all the highs and lows that accompany this season abroad. I’m not a hero, I’m not a saint, I’m not special. I’m just attempting to make choices not according to comfort, security, and predictability, but according to growth, maturity, and commitment — all in faith. Everyday I’m tempted to lose sight of who I am, why I’m here, and why I’m doing what I’m doing, especially on those long, exhausting days. But those subtle yet deep reminders are always present in my spirit, awakening my heart to know again, and lifting my eyes to see again.
Being strong is an illusion. We are all in a constant state of some weakness. As soon as we pretend we are not, we only deceive ourselves. So let us embrace our weakness, for it allows us to fall upon a lasting strength much greater than our own.
We drift from one place to the next, bearing the weight of days as they pass, weathering seasons as they come and go. What is to come of them and of us, what awaits us on the other side? Where do we find ourselves in the end? Is grace enough to sustain as, does love see us through. Is it possible to know, and if we know, to remember why we’re here; to see where we’re going and where we’ll be. Or is this all a meaningless mess and web of events and memories, chance and happenstance, of people and souls and hearts and loves that live and die. Is there something to come of it all…
Don’t tire, don’t lose sight, don’t lose hope, and even when growing weary, remain strong in the One; forge ahead, and live in the promise of what is not seen but will be known.
In the moments of experiences truly special, they’re often not glamorous, romantic, or even memorable until they’ve passed. It’s not until we look back on these moments that we truly appreciate their beauty and understand what they gave us for the present.