As an educator, it could be said that we, as teachers and professors, have one of the most mentally challenging jobs, yet also significantly impactful to those that we teach. Day after day, sixth or tenth-grade students just want attention, love, grace, mercy, and compassion from those who are willing to listen. These students, whether we realize it or not, crave our stamp of approval. Not only for the work they do in class, but also for how they live their lives or inform us about how they probably shouldn’t have eaten 12 fudge bars yesterday (#ohmylanta). Though many will say that students don’t care what you think (and many students themselves will say this too), especially in public schools, deep down, they genuinely do care. All jokes aside, we can tell this by how many times they try to interrupt class with a random question, comment, or snarky remark.
“Ms. Ginter, Can I go to the bathroom?”
“Ms. Ginter, When is your boyfriend going to propose to you?” (#WHAT?!)
“Ms. Ginter, I am getting a pet bird soon. And I wanted to tell you what happened to the kitten we found!”
“Ms. Ginter, Can you check this before I turn it in?”
“Ms. Ginter, What do you know about Ohio State?”
“Ms. Ginter, I spelled Michigan as L-O-S-E-R, do I get an A?” (well-played kiddo, well-played)
Run to Jesus
Don’t believe me yet? Think about it. When you want to tell your best friend, parent, spouse, family member about the best part of your week, or something that happened, why do you tell them? Probably because they listen, actually care, give good advice, and want the best for you. When you talk, they give you the time of day (I pray) and make you feel loved, meaningful, and valued. Isn’t that too, what these kids want deep down? To feel accepted, treasured, like they have value in this life? Absolutely. Isn’t that what Jesus wants us to run to Him for as well? To seek our validation, worth, and purpose in Him alone rather than all these other earthly things? Even if it’s merely to tell him how much you love granola? Especially if it’s just those insurmountable affairs of irrelevance to your everyday life, he wants us to trust and to seek him out in all things.
This week, in particular, was a rough week at work. And when I say rough, I mean rough as in I had caught sinusitis and had no voice to teach with (#talkaboutaproblemforatalker). However, counting my gains instead of my losses, it was probably one of the most significant weeks of my teaching experience so far. During an exchange with one of my students, he told me that his sister had an unforeseen circumstance occur, and without another thought, I patiently listened to him, expressed concern, and told him to keep me posted as I would be praying. Later that evening, I received an email from that students’ parents thanking me for caring about their family and taking the time to have the heart of Jesus towards every student that shares their “heavy heart.”
Sitting for a full five minutes in utter disbelief of the “thank you,” I couldn’t help but smile towards Heaven and know in my heart that though I long to write full-time, this is why I am presently here. That, if even for a second, minute, day, week, month, year, I can make someone feel important, not alone, valued, loved, and worth something to Christ, then it was worth it. As the Scriptures say in Philippians 3:8-10,
Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death. – Philippians 3:8-10
And you know what? Maybe that was listening to him or the girl the week before about how she ate too many desserts — or commenting on how I overeat granola (probably accurate ;)). Maybe it was taking a few extra minutes at the start of class to pray for them and ask them how they are doing? Perhaps it was not stressing out when they wasted five minutes of class asking me random questions about my food allergies and hatred towards candy bars (#truestory). But you know, if I showed them Jesus in those moments, truly listened, and loved them, then I gave them something I can never get back (time), and that is what I believe Christ calls all of us to do wherever we are.
Whether you are an attorney, teacher, preacher, writer, counselor, mechanic, you name it, Jesus Christ will use you to change lives with the ability to hold, account, and pray for those “heavy hearts.” He will strengthen you when you are weak and pour truths into you when you are down. He alone will encourage you when you are suffering, but push you to press on (like when the same kid asks you 22 times if they can go to the bathroom and you still say no). He will cover you in His constant grace, forgiveness, mercy, and love so that you have enough to receive it, but also allow it to overflow into the lives of those you touch daily.
Restoration of Heavy Hearts
Speaking of touching lives, isn’t it funny when God restores your once fragmented and broken heart by revealing a revelation of His work in you? One that you don’t notice its overwhelming impact until it rests upon you?
Coining the term “heavy hearts,” I find it less than a mere coincidence that the boy who told me about his sister’s circumstance is a brother-in-law to the guy I had a massive crush on in high school and never thought I’d get over. At one time, that guy broke my heart so badly that I never thought I’d be able to laugh, smile, let alone, love, ever again (#someofmyfirstpostsever). Yet in some shade of healing, grace, and growth, here I am now over five years later, head over heels in “like” with my boyfriend (we haven’t said “I Love You” yet), who doesn’t pale in comparison to this old love, but undoubtedly surpasses it in colors more vibrant than the rainbow.
That somehow, someway, God took what I thought was broken in me and replaced it with a love so much deeper than I ever knew existed- not just for my boyfriend, but for God himself. And for one of the first moments in my life, when that little boy mentioned his brother-in-law’s loss, I hurt for Him. I felt discomfort for a guy I once associated with a broken heart, who had now just experienced the grief of his own far more significant than I could ever fathom. As I prayed for him and his wife, I began to realize that maybe heartbreaks aren’t all that terrible.
Do they hurt? Absolutely. Do I wish they didn’t exist? Without doubt. But do they push us to love again? More profound, fuller, and more abundantly in Christ than we ever knew existed in our once fragile state of shattered mentality.
So are “heavy hearts” heavy? As heavy as a cement block sinking you deeper into the ocean where no light seems to break through. And will the pain feel like you’re dying? Surely, as it will hurt more than anything you’ve ever known.
But are they worth it? Thousand times over to know that in your compassion, heartbreak, and sorrow, you’ve not only shown the love of Christ to someone, but made them feel important, cherished, valued, loved, and of worth–even if for just that second.
To have a “heavy heart” is part of counting it all as loss for the gain of Christ. Because in giving His life for ours, isn’t that what Jesus did for us hanging from the cross? “Father, forgive them,” He cried out in torment. “For they know not what they are doing” (Luke 23:34, NIV).
But Jesus? He knew what He was doing for us as He breathed His last breath. He knew what heartbreak felt like, dying on a cross, taking our pain upon His shoulders, asking His Father why it had to be this way. Jesus knew that to “live is Christ, and to die is gain,” holding every incident of each “heavy heart” and sorrow we have, had, or will ever endure (Philippians 1:21, NIV).
A “heavy heart,” my friends, is perhaps worth it all in the end.