Today I came up empty, like a novice fishermen, I let my thoughts wiggle away. I think I’ll float for a while, put out some bait, and pray to God I hook a small idea. Then it dawns on me, this is what I know about God. When Jesus came upon some fishermen who repeatedly came up with empty nets, he had them recast (a recasting of self) their nets to the other side of the boat, and ta-da there were so many fish they were unable to haul them in. This is when he called them into a new life, gave them one hell of a novel experience, and asked them to share the good news with others. This is simply the nature of God. God meets us where we are, draws us into new life, and asks us to share our goodness with others. And that is all I have for today.
I tell my sophomores exactly when they will have an epiphany and how they will share this new wisdom with the class. An epiphany is an experience of sudden and striking realization. They like to moan and complain, “Mrs. O, what if nothing happens to me? Isn’t that God’s work? Are there some epiphanies that fail?” What I am asking them to do is pay attention to their experiences and then make connections to class concepts. This is the epiphany I ask them to share with the class, than I have them bring it to prayer, which they hate more than coming up with an epiphany.
Praying out loud to God is a huge faux pas for teenagers, who want to remain cool above all things, the hell with their grade. You would think I was asking them for blood instead of a few thoughts and a show of gratitude (Think how Jesus must have felt). Today we received the new schedule for our fall classes and it got me thinking about my students. This is the time of year, ready or not, I get thrown back into teacher mode. I start hyperventilating, I cringe over my unopened work email, and reluctantly start to review my old lesson plans. I worry that I forgot how to teach, that the new technology has passed me by, and someone will finally realize I know nothing about God.
I was deep into updating my lessons, when I stumbled upon the epiphany assignment sheet, and realized I am asking my students to do what I’ve been doing all summer. Exhume a recent novel experience, bestow it with new meaning, thank God, and sit down. I suppose they feel like I do when confronted with a blank page, searching for divine inspiration, desperately scanning my day for material. I do whine to the computer, “Nothing ever happens to me? Isn’t this God’s work? I have the most boring epiphanies?” I think I might be more understanding next year, but more convinced than ever that it is an important exercise, especially for young people trying to make sense of their lives.