This is a crazy time of year. School is around the corner, our church is hosting a men's conference this week, I'm buried in lesson plans and classroom decorations, and our new school building is still under construction which means I can't even get my room ready right now. (Have you met me? Do you know how OCD I am about my bulletin boards?)
I had stayed pretty cool about all of this until today, when I just about came undone. I'm teaching four English classes, and I'm not sure how I'm going to go about that. This time last year my classroom was completely decorated. Right now, I don't really have walls to decorate. And I've been at the school every day trying to make sense of the mountain of curriculum I'm responsible for, so my house has been slightly neglected to say the least.
But, as always when I start hanging streamers for my pity party, something or someone (the Lord, no doubt, and maybe Jiminy Cricket?) turns my thoughts to people with actual problems. Most of my so-called troubles right now can't really be called "trials" or even much to be endured.... most of it will be solved by time. I have looked around at dear friends of mine who are struggling with ACTUAL difficult circumstances, not mere inconveniences. It won't take chemo, or medication, or a huge sum or money, or counseling, or a miracle to make my problems go away. Yes, they are my problems, and they're stressing me out to the point that I've had a couple of really nice zits on my forehead lately, but in comparison, I really don't have much to complain about.
It's hard to find a balance in this, isn't it? Of course there is always someone having a harder time than I am, but that doesn't necessarily make me feel any better when I am feeling completely overwhelmed at the idea of new classes, new students, an unfinished classroom, a new set of discipline issues, etc. On the other hand, do I really have any right to complain when people are dealing with serious illness, loss of loved ones, betrayal, financial strain, or any myriad of other problems that I have yet to face?
I suppose the best way to go about finding this balance is to be thankful for my relatively light load right now and look for ways to encourage those whose burdens are far heavier than mine. I'm certainly not naive enough to think that things will always be this way- that no sickness or pain or death will befall me or my family. It's like the old cliche says, "It's not a matter of if you face a trial in life but when." If I fall apart when things are just annoying, I'm sure to be a mess when life really does get tough. (Again, I know tough is relative and what's hard to one person is a piece of cake to another.)
Then again, who among us can complain at all when we compare our trials, even those that seem great, to what Christ suffered at Calvary? It's hard to think about that because it really does cause our suffering to pale in comparison, but when we take a long, hard look at it and refuse to gloss over the uncomfortable details, it makes complaining about my problems seem petty. Not only should it give me a sense of perspective (real suffering versus perceived, usually exaggerated suffering) but it should give me a sense of joy. Isaiah 53 is one of my favorite passages (though terribly convicting at times). It tells us that His suffering ("He was wounded for our transgressions and bruised for our iniquities") ultimately made possible our redemption ("with His stripes we are healed.")
Wow. That's a slap in the face, eh? And fairly deep for me considering it's Monday and I spent three hours cutting out letters for my bulletin boards today. =) Just something to think about, even if I'm the only one thinking about it! (I know you just love it when I talk myself through something in a post. Don't mind my self-therapy here... sometimes I just need to talk, well...write, it out. Thanks for allowing these occasional sermons.)