Sometimes, my faith lets me roll with what life presents to me. At my college teaching job yesterday, one of my students approached me at my desk in the middle of class as students were revising their work. It was clear he wanted to talk, and he didn’t need privacy. Several other students listened in on the conversation.
He leaned down to look me in the eyes and calmly shared his anguish over a personal matter involving a child, a custody battle, and a broken home that had been visited by violence.
I don’t know my student’s religious beliefs and he doesn’t know mine. But I felt immediately a sense of peace about this difficult situation because of the answer to Question 108 of the Baltimore Catechism, What is hope? “Hope is a Divine virtue by which we firmly trust God will give us eternal life and the means to obtain it.” My personal addendum is: Hope is also a Divine virtue by which we firmly trust God will guide us through hardships on our earthly journey.
Whenever someone shares their difficulties with me, my first thought is: I need to be the face of Christ for this person. Yesterday I discovered something else about this kind of encounter.
Before I responded, what flashed through my head was this: I’ve taught this man for a year now. He’s in his thirties and a war veteran. He’s had his share of heartbreak and hard times, some of which I have read about in essays he has shared with me and the class. School was not always a place where he experienced success. He has no shame or embarasssment about some of the messier details of his earlier life, nor should he.
I asked him a few follow-up questions and then I told him, “It’s going to be all right.” Commuting home, I mulled our encounter. It’s easy to imagine that I am the face of Christ to this man in distress. But had I ever considered that he was the face of a suffering Christ to me? He needed to tell me that he was aching because of the brokenness of the world. And I needed to offer him hope.
So now I pray for this child my student is so worried about.
We beseech You, O Lord, visit this home and drive far from it all the snares of the enemy; let Your holy angels dwell therein so as to preserve the family in peace; and let Your blessing be always upon them. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.