Face the Right Direction and Take One Step at a Time

I stand on Val’s stage today as a mom walking down memory lane; specifically, those homework sessions at the kitchen table with a crying child.

“Mom, there’s too much! Two whole pages! I’ll be here all night.” He throws his head dramatically onto his folded arms and cries. Real tears. Real anxiety. That heavy Math textbook was not a friend; his or mine.

The teacher’s strategy for this recurring homework distress was to tell him he only had to complete every second problem. This would still demonstrate whether he had mastered the concept. True. But telling him he only had to do half the questions didn’t shrink the page. It was still the same overwhelming grid of numbers. He couldn’t even start it. The whole was too big to see each individual question.

Covering the bottom of the page with sticky notes did not fool his brain either. He was in the junior grades by this time, and not easy to trick. It took a lot of training and many more tears before he finally began to see that he just needed to tackle the job one problem at a time. Kicking up a fuss wasn’t going to get him out of doing the work. He had to do it, so he might as well face the right direction and take one step at a time.

It’s hard not to circle back to my own reality of the fall school start-up in less than three weeks. Concerned parents reach out to me for help with a decision about going back to school, joining through remote learning, or keeping their child home to do their own program (homeschooling), and I have to admit to them that I don’t know much more than they do about what this will all look like. When you look at the whole, it can be overwhelming and scary. It might make you want to pull your turtle head into your shell and refuse to come out. But no matter how long I stay in there and how many tears I shed, I still have to do what I have to do. I have to take my own advice to my son: face the right direction and take one step at a time.

Am I going to hate wearing a mask and a shield all day? Yes, but I’ll get used to it, just like all those other essential workers have been doing nonstop for months. Are my hands going to dry out and get sore from all the sanitizer? Yes, but I’ll find some really good moisturizer to help with that, and my fancy gel nails will distract from the ugliness. Will I have to change my program drastically into something unrecognizable? Yes, but my students will still acquire important life skills and will come to love learning. Will I find it hard to distance from four- and five-year olds who need a loving touch? Yes, but I’ll learn to use my words and my voice more effectively to soothe and comfort. Will I fear the chance of getting the corona virus from one of my students? Yes, but I’ll do the best I can to prevent that from happening and face it head-on, only if it does. Will it be the most challenging year ever as a teacher, student or parent? Yes, but if we all work together, we can face the right direction and take one step at a time.

There are many stories in the Bible of people who didn’t know what the future held but blindly followed God’s leading.

Noah – He built a giant boat where there was no water, while his neighbors laughed at him.
Abraham and Sarah – They packed up everything and left their home with no clear idea of where they were going. It was one step at a time in their journey toward “The Promised Land.”
Moses – He was told to lead the people, but he had no idea where his destination was or how long it would take them. If he had known he was facing 40 years in the wilderness with people who blamed him for every little thing that went wrong, he might have refused that leadership mission.
Paul – On the day that he was converted, Paul asked, “What shall I do, Lord?” And the answer came back, “Arise and go on into Damascus; and there you will be told of all that has been appointed for you to do.” He went without knowing what to expect.

Blind faith worked out in each of these cases. (See more faith stories in Hebrews 11).

Usually, in normal times, we base our plans on what we know. We weigh the pros and the cons; we try to make an informed decision. But what we know, in the case of COVID, is just so little. It’s going to require some blind faith to move forward. Despite my brave words, this week I’ve stumbled. It’s hard being this close to Day One with my students while still not knowing the details.

Do you know who does know everything? God. He sees how we can best navigate through the pandemic. He knows when and how it will end. I have to stop and pass my worries back to Him to carry. That backpack is too heavy for me. I’m going to let him lead the way into this mess, while bolstering me up with His comforting love.

I’m going to suit up with my protective gear, face the right direction, and take one step at a time.

“We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps.”

Proverbs 16:9

“Even when I walk
through the darkest valley,
I will not be afraid,
for you are close beside me.
Your rod and your staff
protect and comfort me.”

Psalm 23:4

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