Sunday, July 11, 2010


I often wonder why in the world God spoils me so much. I wonder why He built into me so many quirks and eccentricities that incline me toward teaching, and then shaded my pleasure centers so that I enjoyed it this much. It just seems almost too perfect; I'm designed to do something, and I'm wired together to love doing just that thing. It's a wonderful way to live, and someday I'm going to have to ask Him why I was the lucky one. I get reassurance that the teaching goes well from course evaluations, from occasional teaching awards, but all of those are flawed measures for reasons I've written about elsewhere. But what happened yesterday was flawless and unmistakable.

Last fall, two of my graduating seniors, who happened to be engaged to one another, dropped in during my office hours and asked if I would marry them. Yesterday, I did. That's still sinking in. I can turn that reality over and over and over in my mind, and it is smooth and solid and impermeable. There are absolutely no "Yeah, but" cracks anywhere in it, and for an academic to surrender to an idea's completeness is no small thing. I was not a perfect teacher for Jordan or Tessa; I had my off days, sometimes wasn't patient enough, sometimes explained things poorly, sometimes sat on assignments and didn't get feedback to them in a timely fashion, but there is absolutely no denying, or even shading, the reality that the time we spent as professor and students was a time of growth and transformation. I made a difference with them, and they made a difference with me. I've known for years that I made a difference with students, and I've definitely been aware that they left their mark on me, but usually it's the sort of thing that's in the air, invisible, out there somewhere, but not easily sensed or gauged. In this case, it was right in my face and unmistakable. Once or twice yesterday I gave in to feeling joyful about it, but most of the day I was simply caught up in awe. It's a very big feeling, by which I don't mean that I felt swelled up or important, but simply that the feeling was overwhelming.

I, of course, fell prey to my usual flaw of hanging back, being a little too reserved, doing and saying less rather than taking the risk of doing or saying enough. The wedding party were all in their early to mid-twenties, and although they kept inviting me in to the conversations, inviting me to sit with them and enjoy things, I kept holding back, aware of my age, afraid of being absurd, not wanting to take attention away from Jordan and Tessa in the middle of their celebration by becoming conspicuous. And following my rule -- at all costs, don't touch students -- I offered Jordan several very professional handshakes, when what I should've offered him is what every other male at the wedding did; a big bear hug. He hasn't been my student for seven months, and won't be ever again, so it was perfectly in line to show, to express, that he wasn't just a student I enjoyed hearing speak up in class, or whose papers I enjoyed grading, but that I now regarded him as a friend, as someone I respected and loved, as a brother in Christ, as someone I was proud to say I knew. I also hung back from Tessa, but that felt different; she was a beautiful bride, radiating joy, surrounded by bridesmaids and family and mentors and friends and teammates and a huge crowd of people, all drinking in her presence, so whether I stepped forward and chipped in fully didn't feel as important. Such things are slippery and hard to frame in words, but that was my take.

Oh well. Even a year into my forties, I've still got a lot of growing up to do.

And on second thought, I don't want to figure out what God is up to, and why I've got it so good. If I ever grasped the reason, I might see my way to where it could stop. And if it's ever going to, I'd rather not know.

No comments: