Thursday, June 19, 2014

To Sharpen a Pencil

There I was, standing in the doorway of the very classroom I internally pulled away from during introductions.  The sweet teacher led me through the disheveled sea of babies, shouting, “Muzungu!” (“Westerner” in Lugandan) as I was offered the bites of various foreign foods in the held-out hands of many pre-schoolers.  I was motioned to sit in the teacher chair and was given a simple task.  I was handed a plate of pencils, various colors and types, and asked to sharpen.  I felt my racing, grasping-for-familiarity soul release slightly.  This was something I could handle.  This was something I could perform and perform well—not reliant upon fluency in cultural cues or emotional energy.  It was then that she handed me a razor blade in the place of what I assumed was going to be a simple twist-and-sharpen contraption that could be purchased at a dollar store.  Needless to say, I type his experience with a few calloused fingers.  I don’t identify myself as a physically and strongly coordinated person.  As I worked to mimic the stern motions she modeled on a few pencils in just a few short moments, in between efforts to keep order in the classroom maintained, I found myself knee-deep in a pile of sweet children grabbing for my hair, my watch, my heart and I felt myself sink knee-deep into struggle.  Five minutes must have passed before I saw any sign of graphite from the first subject of chiseling.  I would have asked for further instruction, but what could be simpler than sharpening a pencil?

I felt myself give into the experience and work through this obscure adversity to find the meaning of it.  And as I sat sunken in this struggle I felt the hands of God, showing me, teaching me, chiseling at me.  “I’m working through the kinks, through the discontinuities of love and endurance inside of you,” He lovingly whispers.  Love is the propelling motion that nudges us into trying again.  Maybe my gift is not physically strong coordination.  Maybe sharpening pencils with a razor blade means performing my best and coming up short.  But I do know that I am being strengthened to trust the God that made this classroom, this experience—hand-tailored to my inner battle—even if it means being left with a few temporary callouses. 

Just one developed thought of many I am experiencing in Lugazi, Uganda.  So far from home, but just as close to the love and care and provision of Jesus Christ.  More to come! xoxo, Ahne

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