I’ve never been a Bible “person”. I had to memorize the order of the books in the Bible when I was 13 and attending a small (very small) Christian school (math class was in the storage closet! You could only access the Spanish classroom by walking through the English classroom!). I also had to memorize Bible verses for Bible quizzes every Friday, but I usually cheated on those, so there clearly wasn’t much takeaway. Ever since then, I’ve been a bit put-off by the Bible. Yes, I am a seminary student who isn’t much into the Bible….this is all sounding very strange, I know.
But for me, my faith has never really been about the Bible. My faith’s roots are there, but its wings and its nest and its daily feathers and its worms are in my life and in my work. For the past 13 years, that’s been with my students. They are where my faith has been invested, where I’ve practiced everything that I believe. The God that I believe in is a God who loves desperately. A God who wants relationship. A God who cradles our world with its school shootings and terrorist-driven vans and government corruption and knows our pain and our desperation so completely. God is like my Mom, whom I avoid telling about bad or hard things that happen to me because I know that it will be so upsetting for her – but even when I intend not to tell her something, she often figures it out anyway, because she can see it on my face and she knows, without me having to say anything. God knows. And through it all, God loves.
This is what I’ve tried to bring with me into every classroom I’ve taught in. I’ve tried to bring love. I’ve tried to be there with my students as they struggled through homelessness, or hunger, or rape, or absentee partners, or jailed parents, or sick children. It’s hard to be there sometimes. It can be hard to love. But sometimes it is easy, and so joyful – when those college acceptance letters start rolling in; or a little family gets their own, much longed-for apartment; or their child stops biting and starts using words to communicate; or they finish the very first book they’ve ever read.
This accompaniment is my faith. This accompaniment is where I have tried to live out the teachings of the Bible and tried to respond to God’s love. And so, these students are so much more to me than just my former students. In so many ways, they are my heartbeat. They are my faith.
Today our professors announced that we’d be doing a text meditation from the Bible, and I inwardly groaned, my 13-year-old self fluffing up her rebellious little tail feathers. And then we started, and we were given permission to allow our minds to settle on something. My rebel brain was very quickly quieted down as the thought of my students and the thought of the devastation of the potential new DACA rulings settled in instead.
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.” John 1:1-5
The meditation went on for several more verses, but little rebel stayed here.
Have you ever seen more life than in a high school hallway? The jostling, the carousing, the rushing, the slamming, the shouting, the shuffling. That is life. That is light. Those students who are there – despite the mountains of shit that you know they waded through in order to get there that day – that is the light.
There is light, and there is darkness, and so many people are scared of that light because they do not understand it. They don’t comprehend. They can’t/don’t/won’t see the light that exists all through this supposed darkness because of this lack of understanding. What happens when we don’t understand? Maybe we become afraid. Maybe we shut down. Maybe we try to shut it out so that we don’t have to figure it out.
I saw my students in the Bible today, and I saw, so clearly, this reminder of why I’m here: to understand, to love, and to shine light to help others understand so that they can love. That love is what this life is all about, both from a biblical perspective and a social justice perspective. So, in the midst of the hate and the fear and the terrible, devastating decisions, let’s get out there and love who we can, and live our faith – whether we proclaim that faith as part of Christianity or simply as part of who we are.