By Christin Van Atta
Starting my first teaching job was literally and physically nerve-wrecking. Because I was ill-prepared to be controlling a room of 30 rambunctious students at a time, the children were all but running wild through my class everyday, and I struggled to get through a lesson without yelling at them.
Further more, I magically seemed to have lost my stellar ability to manage my time and stay organized, which disturbed me deeply.
Due to the daily chaos I was experiencing at work, I was having panic attacks frequently. To try to combat the ever-present panic, I was going to bed at precisely ten o’clock every night, but still waking up exhausted due to recurring nightmares about being late to work, getting in a screaming match with one of my students, or any number of other crazy scenarios. I actually lost ten pounds within the first two weeks of my job because I couldn’t eat due to the constant nausea associated with my over tiredness and overwhelming nervousness.
To make matters worse, I stopped praying. I am not, by any means a “perfect pray-er.” There are nights when I forget, nights when I fall asleep before I have a chance to pray, nights when I’m just too lazy. But during my first two months of teaching, I was so confused and anxious that I just could not handle the thought of using my brain for one more thing during the day. So, naturally the thing that had already been easy to forget to do stopped happening completely.
Then came the shame.
I have always been someone who believes deeply in the power and necessity of prayer, even if I wasn’t always great at remembering to do it. So when I realized that something in my life as trivial as a job had taken over and caused me to stop praying, I was deeply saddened and ashamed at myself. I thought about all the retreats I had lead where I advised people on how to keep prayer in their lives, all the times I had spent in college counseling those who felt they couldn’t pray because they were too busy, or because they believed they were unworthy.
Now I was the one who required counseling. I was the one who needed God to call out to me just as He does to Adam in today’s first reading:
“Where are you?”
I was unhappy, tense, easily upset, and emotionally drained. My relationships with my boyfriend, friends, and family started to become strained as well, and I I started to realize that because all life stems from His life, our lives on Earth grow out of our lives in Him. So if our relationship with Jesus is unwell, we will become unwell. Finally it hit me that my lack of prayer was a strong contributing factor to my unhappiness, even though I had barely noticed it was gone.
I wish I had had some profound spiritual experience where God visited me in a dream, or where I heard his voice in my head asking “Where are you, Christin? Why have you stopped talking to me?” But I didn’t.
I think if I had though, I would have responded in a very similar manner as Adam does:
“I heard you…but I was afraid…so I hid myself.”
Having realized that I had allowed a silly job to harm my personal relationship with God, I felt like hiding from God. I felt afraid that my ability to pray had been lost or damaged, and as a result, that I would be damaged too.
In the first reading for today, Adam and Eve respond to their shame by trying to hide from God, just like I did. Adam and Eve eventually own up to what they did and show their faces to God in order to be forgiven and to rebuild their relationship with him that was temporarily damaged by their hiding. Fortunately, God also gave me the strength to see past the struggles in my life temporarily so that I could once again feel His gentle strength pulling me back to a life of prayer.
Slowly, I regained my ability and desire to pray.
I didn't even know what to pray for anymore, since I seemed to have a mile-high stack of problems. So, I started by praying that God would give me the strength to pray everyday. Imagine that, praying to increase your own prayer life…..but it worked!
Soon I started to feel strength coursing through me everyday when I got out of bed. I started to feel like myself again, happy, and confident, and I slowly began to erase the tension and uneasiness that had infected my earthly relationships as well.
Piece by piece, prayer rebuilt what a lack of prayer had destroyed.
My first few months of teaching were beyond rough; to be frank, they were physically, emotionally and mentally impossible. (If you’re wondering, the following months were significantly easier). But reflecting on those few short months that, in the moment, seemed to span eons, I now realize that “nothing will be impossible for God,” because God will somehow make everything possible for me.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Christin van atta
Christin was born on the west side of Cleveland, graduated John Carroll University in 2014 with an English degree, and also has her Master's of English Literature from Kent State University. She is now a first year English teacher in Cleveland for 90 crazy 7th graders whom she loves dearly despite their craziness. Christin loves all pizza and her cat, Sienna, just as dearly, and hopes to visit Ireland someday because of the cool, rainy weather.