I had a wonderful conversation today with a new friend who recently began teaching. She had a bad week, almost quit and called me to talk. Her words were so familiar that hearing them was like hearing myself a decade ago.
After listening with complete empathy, I replied, in essence:
- The devil sows confusion. Whenever there is hearsay or gossip or implication, there is room for misinterpretation and divisiveness, the enemies of progress. Do your best to cling to the truth and to let everything else fall away.
- Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young. They will, St. Paul notwithstanding, but you must dismiss their criticisms. Age does not guarantee maturity.
- When people say cruel things, they often speak out of envy. A young, talented, wise leader is a target for all kinds of hateful comments. Pray for those people, remembering the worst things you have said with a jealous heart.
- If your supervisors really wanted you to leave, they would have asked you to leave. Instead, they have said that they're proud of the work you're doing and that they believe God has called you to minister here. Write down as much as you can remember of those positive, encouraging thoughts they gave you. Re-read them anytime you are feeling persecuted. They are the reality of your situation. The rest just doesn't matter.
Remembering David Foster Wallace's words about worship, choose to worship God and to view yourself as He sees you -- flawed and struggling, but always with your eyes fixed on Him.
After talking with her for several hours, we hung up both feeling deeply nourished: helping is at least as gratifying as being helped. It occurred to me later that what I said was very good advice, but that none of it was my own; reading back over it, I can hear my mother, my priest, several dear friends and my extraordinarily wise husband.
It also occurred to me that, if I took my own advice, I would be a much more joyful, loving and Christ-centered person. Not a bad thing to learn this week, halfway through Great Lent.