Offering Our Bodies

screen-shot-2016-10-02-at-2-50-26-pmOne of the more hedonistic reasons I teach Sunday school (and am studying to become a teacher) is the pure entertainment value of being around kids.

This morning at church, while taking up the offering the kids had brought to Sunday school, one little boy without anything to put into the jar called out, “I am an offering!” All the leaders laughed and then smiled at one another because he’s right.

In the bible we read that after David acted out as an adulterer with Bathsheba and murderer of her husband Uriah (the bible = the original soap opera), David wrote Psalm 51 as a way of repentance:

You do not desire a sacrifice, or I would offer one.
    You do not want a burnt offering.
 The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit.
    You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God.

And later in the New Testament, the apostle Paul elaborates on this concept when he writes in Romans 12: “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

Long ago, the Israelites worshipped God by providing “burnt offerings” of slaughtered animals, but under our New Covenant in light of Jesus’ sacrifice, we walk out our days as “living sacrifices” when we die to our selfish, sinful natures and choose to live righteously.

We’ve been learning about God being our Provider, so at the end of our lesson, all of my girls were given a sheet of paper where they could write or draw something they are struggling to trust God to provide. Over half of my group simply wrote the word, “Nothing.”

It must be nice to be seven.

Authentically Aurora

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In Favor of Teaching

those-who-can-do-supercommittee-quoteThe blogosphere tends to be a very supportive place, but in the real world, I get a lot of confused looks or straight-up negativity when people find out that I’m looking into becoming a teacher.

Since I have an engineering degree and successful career therein, people cannot understand why I would leave a cushy, corporate job for the world of education. They have preconceived expectations of my career path based on my background and cannot fathom why I would voluntarily leave a comfortable job in favor of teaching.

Many people subscribe to the old adage “Those who can, do; those who can’t, teach”, and teachers tend to be compensated accordingly. But not all compensation is financial. And after seven years in corporate America, I submit to you that a more accurate idiom is: “Those who can, do; those who can’t, form a supercommittee.”

I am still volunteering to teach Sunday school a few times a month at my church, and I was recently asked to become an elementary school Team Leader, meaning I will not only continue teaching but also take on more of an administrative, leadership role coordinating the other volunteers. Although it can be stressful at times, teaching these sweet kids at church remains one of my highlights each week.

Last Sunday, we talked about the Creation account – how God created not only the earth but also plants and animals; man and woman. When Mia, one of my 2nd grade girls, heard this story (for possibly the first time), she looked down at her arms and stroked her tanned forearm with a tentative finger, whispering out loud in wonderment, “I’m made from clay?”

We talked more about the creation of Adam and Eve; then Mia asked me privately, “Miss Aurora, is Jesus God?” After hearing about God the Father creating the universe and everything in it, she was confused about the role of Jesus in relation to the Father. The Trinity is a difficult concept even for mature Christians, so I pointed to Mia’s water bottle in an effort to give her a practical, visual explanation of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

ozarka6ozMia and I removed the lid of her water bottle, exploring the three parts comprising the water bottle: the bottle itself, the cap and the water within the bottle. All three are separate, but they come together to create the water bottle, just as the Trinity is One God, Three Persons.

A few minutes after my explanation, the girls were working on a craft activity when another girl – Lillian – asked about Jesus. All on her own, Mia picked up her water bottle and explained the Trinity to Lillian just as I had explained it to her minutes earlier! My heart swelled within me to see little Mia teaching Lillian about God. I got to see the exponential effect of Matthew 28:19 lived out right in front of me over the course of mere minutes.

Near the end of our time together, Mia had another question for me. “Miss Aurora, is God invisible?”

I answered her, “Right now He is, but someday we’ll see Him.”

Mia pointed to the purple mat we were sitting on. “Is God sitting right here?” I explained Matthew 18:20 to her and suggested that we could pray and ask God to be with us.

I went on to share with Mia that sometimes – especially if I’m sad – I ask God to sit with me and hold my hand.

Mia’s big brown us looked up at me, and she blinked innocently. “Does He say yes?”

“Yes,” I told her with a hug and a smile. “He always says yes.”

Authentically Aurora

Hold My Heart – Part II

FullSizeRender (10)When I went out of town for a weekend with my sisters, the constant chimes of incoming text messages from Cory was a great source of entertainment for them. “Ooh, what did he say this time?!”

Sometimes it was a light-hearted, flirtatious text or an innocent comment about his day of lectures. Cory would tell me what he was learning about in med school or send me selfies of himself wearing his stethoscope on his way to clinic.

One rainy afternoon while he studied, Cory sent a text saying he wished he had a snuggle buddy. I wrote back, “It’s a good thing I’m out of town or you just might end up with one! 😉 ”

His reply:”I fail to see how this is a ‘good thing’ 😉 ”

Cory told me later that his puppy Stout had stood in for me as a snuggle buddy, and “Stout says you owe him belly rubs.” Aww.

Partway through the weekend, my younger sister got a deep gash on her back that required us to take her to the emergency room (long story, but she’s okay). I kept Cory abreast of the situation and, once everything was settled, he sent this text: “If only this happened a couple years later and I was there. I’d suture her right up. 🙂 ”

I know. Wish you were here 🙂

Just for suturing? 😉

Hahaha… I plead the fifth 😉

Come on. Tell me the truth. 😉

The truth is… I don’t know.

I mean, I know what I want, but I also know what I WANT 

Do you wish you were here?

For something other than suturing?

I might. 😉

……. 🙂

You’re a fantastic kisser by the way.

Haha thanks. So are you. One of the best ever, in fact.

You’re just saying that.

“False,” I texted back, face flushed from his admission. “When some people kiss, they are takers. You are a giver in the way you kiss, and it changes everything.” And it did.

Occasionally, Cory would lead us into a more serious conversation. At one point, he asked me, “What are you good at? Besides dancing, singing, kissing and the ‘come hither’ look?”

I smiled to myself before I typed back, “Guess you’ll have to stick around and find out!”

But he legitimately wanted an answer. “Come on. what is something you are passionate about and that you consider yourself good at?”

After I answered (citing primarily music and other artistic skills), he said simply, “Tell me a secret.”

I admitted to eating straight out of the peanut butter jar, and Cory said that he drinks milk straight from the jug. I don’t know how to parallel park, and Cory secretly loves HGTV. The last secret I shared was: “Kissing in the rain is on my list of life goals.”

“I’ve done that… It’s amazing.. You know it’s been raining all day? 😉 ” He never missed an opportunity to flirt. And my heart never missed the opportunity to flip-flop.

Religion also started to come up a lot more during that weekend away. I’d known from that first night we went swing dancing that Cory and I needed to talk about his Universalist leanings and tendency to bring Buddhist and other principles into his so-called Christian doctrine, but I wanted to approach the topic with care. Fortunately, Cory initiated bringing up our faith differences during one of our evening phone conversations.

Cory shared with me that he considers himself a Christian – that he believes Jesus died and rose from the dead as an atoning sacrifice for his sins – but he also thinks that all gods are the same god; that God reaches different people groups in different forms. I’ve heard this argument countless times, so I went right into Jesus’s declaration that He is “the Way, the Truth and the Life” and statement of, “No one comes to the Father except through Me.”

Cory was ready for that argument and told me that he is of the opinion that Jesus himself wasn’t the only way to a right relationship with God, but that Jesus’s way of living – loving others and exercising servant leadership – is the way to salvation. “When Jesus talks about being the Way and saying that no one comes to the Father except through him,” Cory explained, “He’s talking about, not himself in particular, but his way of living. If we live like Jesus did and love other people, that is how we get into heaven.”

I was dumbfounded. Cory is a brilliant man. He’s intelligent, educated, articulate, perceptive, insightful and someone who also has a longing to live well, love deeply and make a positive impact in the world. So how such a man could be so blinded to the beautiful simplicity of the Gospel was beyond my comprehension. I mentioned John 1:29, Romans 10:9 and other verses that clearly state faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus himself as the method of salvation, but Cory wasn’t having it.

I tried to explain Ephesians 2 – that we are saved by grace through faith, not by works so that no one can boast about “earning” their salvation – and Cory countered with James 2, that faith without works is dead. I explained that the Apostle Paul and James had the same viewpoint but came at it from different angles as a result of their audiences. James, writing to a Jewish audience, reminded Jewish followers of Jesus that although they were no longer under the Mosaic Law, if their faith was genuine, that faith would be evidenced by living rightly. Paul, on the other hand, wrote to a Gentile audience who needed to hear that they were not subjected to the traditional Jewish laws in order to enter into the family of God; they were saved purely by the grace of God when they placed their faith and trust in Jesus’s sacrifice on their behalf.

Cory and I are both competitive, intelligent, passionate people, so although we each tried to respect the other person, the conversation soon began to get rather charged, and we agreed to table the discussion for another time.

We briefly sent light-hearted, humorous texts to ease the mood; then Cory took us right back to a heavy topic: “I hate to change the subject to something less smiley… But I don’t think I ever heard your insight into my situation with Mary, and I would actually really value your input.”

Ugh. Did he really want to talk about his ex-fiance? I’d told him about my own broken engagement and had, at the time, been enthusiastic about sharing my journey and the lessons I learned from that season. But as much as Cory and I had bonded emotionally of late, it hurt to have her brought up. I could tell he still had feelings for her.

Nevertheless, I wrote back, “Okay. I would be happy to share my insight, but only if you really want to hear it and only if we discuss it in person.”

“I really want to hear it. But I’m impatient and you’re far away. Haha.”

I told him I could try to call him later. Then we had a long break between texts while I spent time with my sisters and tried to emotionally distance myself from the conversation for purposes of my own preservation. When I eventually checked my phone again, I had another text from Cory: “I’d still love to text if you want. 🙂 I get a general, nonspecific good feeling from talking to you.”

That made me smile. He enjoyed my company, even if his heart was spoken for. And I soon discovered just how spoken for his heart really was.

Over the next few days, I discovered that Cory and his ex-fiance were still talking on a weekly basis. I’d known Cory wasn’t healed from his broken engagement to Mary, but I hadn’t realized they were still in communication. “What’s the purpose of that?” I asked him. “Is that healthy for you?”

Only then did I find out that he is driving to see her over Christmas, with the intent of winning her back. He’s taking Stout with him (it turns out Stout is a dog they got together as a couple). And this Christmas visit is the reason he’s been studying so hard and working out so much. He is a man on a mission to win back the love of his life. And that love of his life is not me.

Their relationship is doomed to fail. Even if they do get back together over Christmas, their relationship will not last. They each have three years of med school left and are both stubbornly staying at their respective med schools in states 1,600 miles apart. They are both career driven, already have trust issues and now a broken engagement behind them.

Could they make it work? It’s possible. But I have serious doubts that three more years of long distance – with all this baggage as the foundation – is going to result in a lasting, happy marriage, especially considering how much of their relationship was physical in nature. I think it would be better for Cory to escape the situation now and begin the healing process.

I don’t think Cory’s Christmas courtship is going to end with them getting back together. And frankly, it would be better for Cory if it didn’t. But for my sake – for the sake of my poor, foolish, battered heart – I hope it does. Because then, maybe, I will stop torturing myself pining for a man I know will never be mine. 

Authentically Aurora