I had just read this wonderful meditation (here’s the link to the whole thing) when we had our beginning-of-school staff meeting. We were asked to think of one word we would like to remember to help us through the school year…an inspirational word or something to remind us of why we are working there at school. The word “kenosis” was an obvious choice for me since it was so fresh in my mind and I was still figuring out what it could look like in my life as a Title I tutor in an elementary school. Richard Rohr described kenosis as an outpouring and a letting go of self out of love for others. Episcopal priest Stephanie Spellers again: “God is the love that gives itself away for the sake of more love.” I wrote in my journal that kenosis was just what I need to do—let go of myself and my own ego needs and surrender to the needs of the students and teachers. It’s SO not about me! It’s about the kids and helping them with everything they need to learn and grow, especially after the craziness of last year. Giving all I’ve got to school while I’m there, is following Jesus, who gave all he had to those around him…no matter who they were or what they needed. Also following Jesus would mean taking care of myself, too. Just as Jesus would go away on his own to spend time with God, spending quiet time and recharging is doing what I need to do for the outpouring and self-emptying to happen at school.
I printed up this quote about kenosis and pinned it to the little bulletin board where I check in at school. The first week has passed and I vividly see opportunities for putting myself aside and concentrating my energy on meeting the needs of others. It’s hard, though, I won’t sugar-coat it! I’d love to have a private little space in which to work but there is no room for that. I’d love to get through a whole day without feeling like I missed something or could have done a better job, but that is a pipe dream. There is a humbling task around every corner, it seems. I have come home and collapsed in a heap at the end of each day, and the pity is I only work part time! But I have been graced with the assurance that I am right where I am supposed to be, doing what God needs me to do. And, since God asked me to do this, God is helping me every step of the way. My part is to show up, eager and willing to do whatever is asked of me. And to love on these kids, whose minds are like little sponges, soaking it all in! They are here, and I am here, and it is good that we are here. God is gracing us with each other. And any outpouring of love for them and letting go of my own silly self will be well worth it!
Gracious God, please help all who are involved in education this new school year. We certainly, with your grace, learned how to do hard stuff last year and, while this year seems a bit easier, it still feels a bit unsure and dicey. Help us to show up and pour out love on all we encounter. Help us to take care of ourselves so we can give of ourselves more freely. And thank you for giving us wonderful gifts. Amen!
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A profound piece of sharing, Heidi. Thank you!! I read Richard Rohr’s posts regularly but missed the one you referred to. I especially appreciate you sharing your specific acts of “kenosis.”
What a blessing you are to the students you tutor. The school system is lucky to have a person as yourself that puts their all into their work and loves it so much. Thank you for what you and Christ do together!