I can't remember if I mentioned publicly about my monthly commitment to read Isaiah this year. This month, I'm choosing one verse each chapter that stands out to write in my prayer journal through the practice of florilegium (something lots of ancient Christians used to do when reading the Bible). This past week, I pulled out 35:3, "Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees." There's another phrase a couple verses down about the lame leaping like deer, but this one with the feeble knees stood out to me on this particular reading.
My proprioception sucks, and consequently my knees often wobble when I walk. I'm unsteady on my feet because my body struggles to know where I am in space. My knees take a lot of punishment as I navigate using my nerve damaged legs. Fortunately, I have a lot of people around me to support me when my knees are weak. I'm never alone in my navigation of the world, and I'm so grateful for the people who support my weak knees. I need lots of help, and I struggle to accept it sometimes, but I also know how impossible my life would be without it.
As I struggled through the last week before break, I had to tap out of a few places, and I received so many encouragements to care for myself - to make firm my feeble knees. I also had particular support from Anja to strengthen my weak ankles. Anyone following my journey knows my incredible gratitude for Anja's investment in my life because she cares about my ankles, calves, knees, and toes. I'd had a few weeks without physio appointments, and she was eager to see me stand barefoot again. Unfortunately, we recognized pretty quickly that I wasn't going to be taking steps barefoot anytime soon because of the serious calf tightening that happens in the winter. My spasms had been especially bad on Wednesday, so she spent a good portion of our time stretching and relaxing the ankles. While I lay there listening to her talk about her passion for patients finding holistic health and success, I thought about my passion for students learning in my classroom.
It clicked in that moment why Anja and I are friends: we both have jobs in our sweet spot connecting passions and giftings and will stop at nothing to help those who come across our path. I had students come over to bake cookies and connect concepts we were discussing about Ibsen's A Doll's House to real life scenarios. Anja is constantly processing how she can come up with easy and intentional activities that her patients can use at home to continue developing muscle strength. Her heart matches mine in seeing people thrive. When I came back to Germany, it was important to me to make sure that I went back to Anja because I knew she was invested in making my feeble knees stronger. I knew I could keep doing what Mike taught me, but that it wouldn't be enough on my own. I need the ongoing support and maintenance in order to keep progressing at my previous rate.
This physical need for support is just like the spiritual and emotional support system I encourage my students to create when they leave BFA. I had a panel of three alumni come talk to my Bible class on Friday and since we're digging into the apologetics question of the existence of God, I asked these students about how they live differently as people who believe in God. All three of them brought up how they intentionally sought out a church community in their new context after leaving the Jesus-oriented life at BFA. These are kids committed to Jesus, but it was because of that commitment that they recognized the need to have people around them who could support them in feeble knee moments that were bound to arise.
I've watched so many other students struggle to connect to Jesus followers who then struggle to maintain their own commitment to Jesus. My heart breaks over the kids who stumble and don't have anyone who can help them up and be the strengthener of their weak hands holding big questions. I'm reading a fabulous book by Natasha Sistrunk Robinson about how the church needs to develop better disciplers, and I'm convicted to step into that role more intentionally as I look at all the young people around me eager to walk towards Jesus but needing a community to make strong their weak hands when they move into a new place. This week ripped open a huge failure related to that on my part this week, so I certainly have room to grow. However, God highlighting a major shortcoming simultaneously opened my eyes to dozens of small steps of growth in the right direction.
I'm finally on my official Christmas break, and I have the absolute joy of a stream of students visiting or staying around for the holidays who are still eager to make cookies or have tea. Just this afternoon, four kids packed into my kitchen to catch up on their various growth and potential for growth while they made chocolate chip cookies. This particular group has students eager to use their voices to elevate the needs of the oppressed, and I can't tell you how delighted I am to know they will be pursuing ways to tell stories and make movies and use creative mediums to share a Gospel oriented message with the world. When I get disheartened because people think I'm too radical with this whole "Jesus loves you right where you are" message, I'll be strengthened by students like these.
For now, though, I'm going to use my feeble knees to take some more steps on my treadmill.