Tomorrow I start my last day of classes in the teacher education program at Missouri State University. This time next year, I will (hopefully) be in my own classroom, I won’t be under the supervision of a practicum teacher and I’ll have 25+ sets of eye balls staring at me expecting me to know what the heck I’m doing. To say that I’m scared is an understatement. The fact that I made it this far is nothing short of a miracle. Well, that may be a bit of an exaggeration, but, let’s be real: there have been many, many days that I wanted to throw in the towel. But I made it this far and my motto for the semester is none other than “Carpe The Heck Out Of This Diem!” Maybe I’ll make a t-shirt. Or not.
I spent the weekend in Springfield with my BFF, Christin, and it was a much needed two days of flea market browsing (I found some amazing treasures!), lots and lots of coffee, Facebook stalking our old classmates, and a Rascal Flatts concert. So, on my drive home this morning, I had about an hour and a half to just think. Typically when I’m on the road alone, I have a major car concert and I hit all the high notes that I’m way too embarrassed to sing when anyone else is in the car with me. It’s a good time. But today was different. It could have been the fact that there was ice and snow on the road and I had to actually pay attention instead of worrying about stretching my vocals in to their falsetto range. But I don’t think the roads played the whole role in my quiet drive home. As I drove, I began to think about what defines me. I know I’m a daughter. I’m a sister. I’m an aunt. I’m almost a real live teacher. But what defines me? One of the assignments that is due in my first class tomorrow asked us to list three words that best describe us. I looked at my dad and said, “Dad. What are the first three words that come to mind when you think of me?” His response: smart, pretty, compassionate. Well, I wasn’t going to list pretty on the assignment so I made him give me one more (besides, I wanted to see if he could come up with one more) and his fourth description was “empathetic.” This really made my brain start spinning (I promise, this isn’t a blog to toot my own horn; I’m making a point!). While I was genuinely touched by the kind words that my dad had chosen to describe me with, it made me wonder. I’m not always as compassionate as I should be. As I was leaving Sam’s Club a few days ago, there was a man sitting on the corner. He was your typical duffel bag toting, bearded, homeless man, holding a cardboard sign that, at first glance, I could have sworn I’d seen another man flashing at passers by just the day before. For a split second, I was annoyed. I thought to myself, “This man needs to march his happy butt in to McDonalds and get himself a job and earn his money like the rest of us.” Then, something happened inside me that normally doesn’t happen in these kinds of situations. Tears filled my eyes. I was shaking I was crying so hard. I knew the light was going to turn green any minute, and as I fumbled around in the bottom of my purse, looking for whatever loose change or bills I had, I managed to find a five and I rolled down the window. My eyes met his. And I was sobbing. He was someone’s son. Probably someone’s dad. He was probably someone’s brother. But most importantly, he was a person in need. I know a lot of people are professional beggars. But when I looked in his eyes, I saw a sad man. And I saw an opportunity for me to be the hands and feet of Christ. Isn’t that what we were called to do? So many times I feel inadequate. I don’t feel like my simple life has anything to offer because I’m not writing books that are changing peoples’ lives. I’m not a motivational speaker. I’m not standing on a stage behind a podium speaking to crowds of people about how much Christ loves them. I’m just a 26 year old girl who struggles every single day of my life with wondering what defines me and where I’ll be in ten years and if the Lord will give me a red headed daughter like I want so badly. I struggle with insecurities. I have to face my own demons every day. I have to deal with past mistakes that some days plague me and make me feel like I’ll never amount to a hill of beans. But when my eyes met this man’s on Rangeline and 32nd, I was reminded that when it’s all said and done, I have one calling on my life. And that is to spread the love of Christ that is given so freely to me.
He planned a course for my life so that I could be defined by Him. More than being a daughter or a sister or an aunt, I want to be a compassionate person. I want my heart to break for what breaks His. When I see someone in need, I want to be the hands and feet of Christ. It’s easy to be moved by those commercials we see that tell us that a “dime a day can help a child in need.” But what about that single mom who’s waitressing at three jobs just to make ends meet? I don’t know her background and I really don’t need to. For all I know, she got herself in to that situation and common sense tells me that she needs to enroll in the School of Hard Knocks, but I was shown grace without an ounce of judgment, therefore, who am I to judge? We are called to love. Simple as that.
Some days I wonder if the countless hours of studying and classes and lesson planning and rubric making have really been in preparation for a traditional classroom setting. Is teaching science to a room full of students really what will define me? Or is God preparing me for something beyond those four walls? What will be the definition of Rachel Brooke Cantwell when this year, 2013, is said and done? I don’t know. But in this moment, I pray that I am a compassionate person, that I’m always attentive to the needs of those around me, and that I am always an extension of God’s mercy and love and kindness.
Have a blessed week, my friends! ~Rach
(p.s. This is Christin and me at the concert, clearly giddy with excitement to see Rascal Flatts! Friends since second grade with many years to come!)