One of my all time favorite teachers was an English teacher that I had in college, Debbie Pope. She’s got endless energy, guilty smiles, and enjoys life enough for all of us. It’s what I loved. And I also loved English. I love to write and I love how words can change a person. That’s probably why I married a pastor and also became a pastor. I wanted to use words to change the world. So, this morning I read a blog that Debbie wrote and thought I would pass it on. Simply this: you’ve taken the paths that you’ve taken for a reason and it’s important to enjoy the place that you are at.
Here is what she wrote:
This morning, I was thinking about identity again. Actually, I was praying in my car. I like to pray out loud in my car, after I stop at Starbucks and pick up my steamed soy misto for the morning and am back on 108th Avenue NE, headed to the 520 floating bridge and Seattle.
Praying, talking. Having a cup of coffee with Jesus. I imagine him sitting in the passenger seat, sometimes.
And somewhere in that conversation, the word “identity” came up — and came up in conjunction with the fact that I was driving back to school, back to class. See, I have been homesick for Chattanooga ever since I got back. I was there for 4-5 days in October and had a glorious time. I was there for Christmas break for 4 days, and soaked up every minute of it — old friends, family, celebrations, familiar streets, sounds, landscape. I’ve been gone for 30 years, and somehow, this year, I’ve begun to realize how much of my identity is still rooted in being that person — a Southerner. In those experiences, those people — that place. And I find myself praying that somehow, sometime in the future, I can go “home.” Seriously. It’s who I am. It’s who I want to be.
But this morning, I’m also someone else.
I am a teacher. Today, I teach.
Frederick Buechner — and for those of you who may not know, he is a Presbyterian minister/author — and my patron saint of some 20+ years now — says something like the following concerning identity (and I’ve just searched madly through Listening to Your Life for the correct reference, and cannot FIND it!): “If you want to know who you are, watch your feet — for where your feet take you, that is who you are.”
(And again, that’s a Pope paraphrase — but pretty darn close to the original.)
I’ve always loved that. It’s so plain and simple and true. Where your feet take you, that is who you are.
Can’t deny it.
If you want to know who you are — at any given moment of your life — look down at your feet. Where are you? Where have they taken you?
THAT is who you are.
So I said out loud in my 2005 Honda CRV as I accelerated onto the entrance ramp to 520, “My feet are taking me back to school today, God. Help me to be the best teacher I can be, because that is who I am — that is where I am — today. I don’t know what the future holds. I don’t know where I will be a year from now. But today, my feet take me to the classroom.”
And then, in the next firing synapse, I thought of Dr. Truett Edsell Bobo, and Stan Steward (now Dr. Stan Steward, also — but just Stan in my college days). They were both my college professors at Bethany (then) Bible College, Santa Cruz, CA.
Whenever I am starting a new class, I think of them, and I pray another prayer, and it’s this: “Lord, I teach today in the name of Stan Steward and Truett Bobo, who taught me that good teaching is passionate. It is engaging. It is creative. It is thoughtful. It is FUN. It is life-changing, liberating, challenging. So in their names, I take my feet into my two classes today.”
Identity. We all have it. Years go into the making of it. Places go into the making of it. Family goes into the making of it, educational experiences, friends, husbands, wives, children.
And it comes to a point, always.
And that point is today.
Where your feet take you, that is who you are.
For me, I will be a great mom today! I will give my kids all that I can to make them better little people today. I will set aside the frustrations that come with diapers, tiny toys surrounding me, and jelly fingerprints on my walls. My feet have taken me to my home and my family today, so I’m going to do the best that I can.
Take a minute to look at your feet. Where are you going today and how can you be Jesus to the people that God has given you?