Monday, 11 March 2013

A Dilemma Resolved

to Chris at Campfire and Cleats' Memoir Mondays. Thanks again to RAnn and Chris for hosting!

Eastern Orthodox icon of Jesus the Good Shepherd,

For many weeks, I had been pondering a particular question. I have a “difficult” child in my catechism class, who ends up getting most of my time and attention, to what I feel is the detriment of the other children. Our catechism coordinator, Rolf, had offered to allow me to exempt this child from attending further catechism classes. In some way, this was a very welcome development for me. I had been struggling since this particular kid joined us just before Christmas. On the other hand…

Me # 2:  It’s the practical thing to do. Rolf is okay with it. What exactly are you hemming and hawwing about this time?

Me # 1: Well, what about what St. Paul said about all of us being the body of Christ? Am I cutting off part of Christ’s body by taking M out of the class?

Me # 2: When he’s in class, it’s not as if you are really teaching anything. Do you think you’re being an effective teacher for the other children when you spend most of your time chasing him around and disciplining him? Be practical. Letting him go is what’s best for the other children.

Me # 1: What about the good shepherd who leaves his 99 sheep to look for that lost one? That’s not practical. Perhaps the good of the many does not always outweigh the good of the one. I wish I knew what God’s will in this was. God, please tell me what to do.

Me # 2: There you go with your hero complex again, always wanting to be a martyr. You are so selfish and self-centered. It’s not all about you. Perhaps it is God’s will for you to let this boy go. God has better instruments than you for working His deeds.

Me # 1: Jesus was not practical. Perhaps He’s calling us to move beyond practical motivations…

Me # 2: Let me tell you what’s going to happen. It will be the same as before, and will just get worse. You’ll eventually go back to Rolf with your tail between your legs. He’ll just say, I gave you your chance before. You compromised the good of the group for this one kid, to no good end. Ross will tell you that you were being stupid and stubborn as usual. Told you so. Told you so. Also, as for Jesus’ example, remember, Jesus was the Son of God. He was Divinity embodied, worked miracles and all that stuff. You’re just you.

Me # 1: I just don’t feel right …

Me # 2: You are so crap at making decisions. Why do you make every little thing so complicated? This is what happens when you don’t have a real job and don’t have real problems. Get a life! Letting M go makes no difference to anything, it’s not going to save the world.

Me # 1: Dear God, if I knew what Your Will was in this situation, I would do it. But You have to tell me what it is. Please, Lord, tell me.

Me # 2: Are you really going to run to God for every little decision? He gave you a good brain, so use it. You’re an adult capable of making your own decisions.

Me # 1: Aaarrghh…

Voice from Within: Daughter, you know exactly what I am calling you to do. Why do you keep doubting?

Me # 1:  Lord, is that You? I think I know what You’re saying. But I don’t know if You’re really You. What if You’re really just me? What if #2 is right? Please, could you please spell Your Will out loud and clear? I am terrible at interpreting subtle inspirations.

Round and round we went for weeks. Finally, on Saturday, March 2, I skyped in to my Uncle V’s Cenancle Hour. Uncle V is a good, long-lost, recently-refound friend of my mum’s. In our culture, blood relation or not, as a sign of respect, we always address the older person as auntie or uncle (or older brother or sister, depending on the age difference). I still expect to be struck by lightning whenever I call my in-laws by their first names, which is their stated preference. In any case, Uncle V is my teacher and spiritual director. He is based in Los Angeles and leads a congregation called the Spiritual Army of God the Father. Once a month, Uncle V leads a Cenacle Hour as part of their congregation’s First Saturday Devotion. They have a Skype connection set up such that devotees from the Bay Area and Las Vegas (and me in Zürich) can participate. As I listened to Uncle V’s discourse on Skype, I thought, why don’t I send him an email afterwards asking him for his advice. Uncle V has a gift. He is a locutionist. If we make use of a TV reception analogy, my connection to God is like the reception one gets from those old-school rabbit-ear antennas, often garbled and fuzzied up by doubt and worry. In contrast, Uncle V’s connection to God is a ultra high-definition premium cable subscription, with HBO, Cinemax, and all the other fancy movie channels. My faith is a young, timid, fledgling faith. Uncle V is fierce and fearless in his. He is a roaring lion in his love for God. In any case, after I signed off from the Cenancle Hour, I composed and sent off my email to Uncle V, asking him to help me discern God’s Will in this situation. Keep M or let him go. I breathed a sigh of relief. Uncle V would answer in the next day or so, and it would be resolved. I wondered why I had waited so long to ask him. By then, it was quite late on Saturday night for me. Before I went to bed, I thought I would read the Gospel readings for Sunday, in preparation for Mass the next day.

I could not believe my eyes when I read the Commentary of the Day from St. Asterius of Amasea. I had implored God for a less subtle indication, and here it was, written by a 4th Century saint from what is now Turkey, on a website. How amazing is that? All my questions answered. “Will you now believe who I am, Daughter?” asks the Voice from Within. All glory and praise to God, Almighty and Loving Father, who listens to the pleas of his children!

The next day, I receive Uncle V’s reply. “It is hard work working for God’s glory. Fight like an angel for whomever God or the evil one sends into your fold, “ he exhorts. Fight like an angel. I like that.

And so, dilemma resolved. I’m keeping M. I’ll fight like an angel for him until the end (which is actually only 6 more Tuesday afternoons away).

This I share with you, dear readers, as part of my witness, for the greater glory of God.


  1. what about the epistle readings that speaks of jonah? do we ask for a sign? shouldn't we ask for a sign? now in the time of christ, the gospel say that you shouldn't ask for a sign. there is a greater sign than johah, now that jesus has come.
    shouldn't we be enlightened on this issue of asking a sign?
    on the other hand you are right. God speaks to us in every way. it's not really asking for a sign but trusting that God is talking to us, that He speaks to us every moment of our lives.
    it is really a matter of paying attention.
    how wonderful is the saving power of God.

    1. I don't think I was asking for a sign, but rather praying desperately for guidance. Is or isn't that the same thing? I don't really know. I am grateful that God, in His infinite Mercy, chose to provide a clear answer in this situation (or at least, I interpret it as such!). Yes indeed, how wonderful is the saving power of God!

  2. Ultreya-
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts and linking to Memoir Monday.....I so appreciate that!
    Oh my, your story rings a clear bell with me! I taught for many years and good grief, there was always a child like the one you describe. Always... There were days when I knew it was taking the 'easy way out' to remove the child, even temporarily...that even he/she needs attention, tlc, etc...BUT that type of constant disruption is not fair to the other kids who are seriously there to learn. It does become a drain day after day after day.

    The fact that you question the decision to remove the chld says so much about you as a caring person....

    Thanks Ultreya....and BTW, the comment did not appear. Thanks for letting me know. And for the kind words

    Havea lovely day

  3. You are a brave shepherd -- going out to bring back the 1 that is lost, when in today's world the 99 are enough and who cares about that ONE? Christ's who he came for.

    I have taught for 20+ years in religious ed and there are difficult children of course...bringing transparency to the difficulty helps. Sometimes it just takes one phone call to a parent and they help the situation. I pray for your cause!...God will find a way to sort it out.
    Many blessings+

    1. Dear Denise, thank you for your encouraging words and advice. I called his mum once, and did notice an improvement in his behaviour the next session. By the way, I love your profile picture. I have the same sweet picture in a frame in my prayer room. Thanks again!

  4. "What about the good shepherd who leaves his 99 sheep to look for that lost one? That’s not practical."

    I actually tell my class I am not like that shepherd. I will throw out the one in order to save the 99.

    1. Hi Christian,

      Thanks for stopping by. I'm drafting a post about the unexpected turn this thing took just two days ago. I'll let you know when I post. In general, the question of practical or not in following Christ's example continues to stump me.

  5. It is a tough decision sometimes. Is there any way you could get help to keep him in your class?


Thanks for sharing your thoughts!