If you go through my archive, you'll find more than one reference to the Superchic[k] song "Alright." It showed up in one of my annual playlists as well (because every year has at least one Demon Hunter and one Superchic[k] song in homage to the Myspace lists of my high school years that the annual playlists come from). I can't shake the lyrics to this song as I've been praying this week - especially as Tricia ends singing, "This is my last verse, and it's for everyone feeling not so great today / We don't know what's coming just around the bend / It's always hard to believe in your own life / Easier to find belief for a friend / I'll hope for you, you for me / And together we can say / It'll be OK / It'll be alright."
I realized there's a shade deeper I can go in that empathy because I'm finding myself spending a lot more time intentionally praying for people I care for. One of the most significant lessons I learned during my time at RCC was the importance of prayer. It's such a basic of the Christian faith, but, I'll be honest, the experiences I had in North America and Europe were pretty shallow when it came to prayer. It took a year in the southern hemisphere for God to turn my ideas of prayer upside down and realize how it should have always been a more central part of my life. That's not to say that I didn't know how to pray or hadn't met people who prioritized prayer. Rather, I've adjusted my life rhythm in a significant way, and this season of "physical distancing" gives me more time to sit in the presence of God and ask who I should be praying for and how I can encourage them in this moment based on the lesson I learned in New Zealand.
Each Saturday, I message nine different former students and ask them how I can specifically pray for them. Usually two reply. One of them reads this blog - so come on, kiddo, send me your prayer requests. I still pray for all of them every day. Sometimes I know a detail here or there that can be more specific, and I know these kids well enough at this point to know how they are likely impacted emotionally and spiritually during this current global crisis. One of the kids had a meltdown this past week and called me in the middle of the night in America. I was just getting out of bed in Germany, and we had a pretty rough conversation because I couldn't solve this kid's problems with an instant miracle.
The truth is, this kid has lots of problems and was having a meltdown over a symptom and projecting it onto me and wasn't exactly kind in how it came out at 3am. I was just having my first morning cup of coffee, and I wasn't the best at receiving the angry words. Fortunately, I mostly held my tongue until I could process it with my peers. Brandi got an earful when she dropped off my groceries, Givorgy talked me down from bailing on this kid's growth (he said I wasn't allowed to move to a monastery), and Morgan affirmed the reality that I have to be the adult when a kid has a breakdown in the midst of a pandemic. I'm allowed to have my own safe place for a breakdown - and I sought those out in those three conversations. This kid also deserves grace for breakdowns while coming of age an ocean away from family and in the midst of a pandemic. There's a balance I'm learning between letting kids recklessly wound me and practicing that habit of Jesus where I absorb the hurt and let him transform it as I'm his agent of healing in the lives of broken people.
As I'm learning this, I'm extra grateful for that rhythm of intentional prayer time. I can ask God for wisdom in how to love these broken kids well and how to receive healing in my own life well. Having my safe people matters a lot - I praise God for them and they pray for me and as they offer me wisdom and encouragement. I also know I'm the safe person for a lot of people scattered around the globe and isolated in various places currently. We're all dealing with complicated struggles, some in common with others, some unique to our circumstances. That's why I've been asking God to give me names each day for people I can reach out to and encourage. I can't tell you how important the encouragement from Brandi, Givorgy, and Morgan was this week, but there were several other significant uplifting interactions for me this past week. Just hours after my last post, someone who I've looked up to since high school reached out to tell me my post had moved her to tears and that I was an encouragement to her. Before I went to bed that night, three alumni had sent me direct messages thanking me for my words and the positive impact I had on them. The public comments here and on my Facebook meant a lot as well.
Additionally, the interaction that made my week was a student calling me up to say how excited he was about reading Matthew 7-9 (those are three super powerful chapters, in case you were wondering). After reading them, he called me up to rave about how awesome Jesus is, then after our short conversation he texted me another half a dozen specific examples of how exciting those chapters are. The next day one of his best friends messaged me a huge list of all the exciting things he found when reading 2 Timothy and said he was now going to catch up to us and read along through the Gospels this month. There's this domino effect of positivity that can happen when we are intentional about sharing the good things in our life and encouraging others.
The opposite is true too - with fear and negativity, and there's unfortunately plenty of that out there on the internet currently. I'd love to motivate you to counteract the fear with hope, the negative with positive. I've got my safe people that I'm making sure to thank and encourage for uplifting me, and I've got my kids I'm intentionally trying to support too. Can you think of your three safe people in this pandemic? Who are you reaching out to when you need some hope? Tell them thank you. Can you think of nine people who are in your life who need some extra love and support this week? Don't tell me you don't have the time to text a sentence of specific appreciation. You hope for me, and I'll hope for you. I'll pray for you, you for me. Send some messages to let people know you care. Text someone who works in the healthcare industry and let them know you're grateful for them. Think of a mom or dad working from home in addition to monitoring remote learning and let them know they are a champ who deserves grace. Call up a grandparent who has to hold off on hugs from grandkids for a while and offer your voice as an encouragement. Tell a teacher you're impressed with their dedication and quick implementation of innovative ideas in remote learning (I'll volunteer to receive the educator compliment if you can't think of anyone else because I really miss having students in my classroom getting excited about the Bible and literature with me).
Be intentional with those positive interactions, but let me offer one last bit of advice that I got from my counselor last week: You do not have to be everything to everyone. I've taught a couple hundred kids over the course of seven years, and I don't keep up with all of them. Those I do have contact with are at varying degrees as well. I can't be everything to every person in my Facebook feed, but I can be intentional in twelve messages this week.