I work at a parochial school, and so I have the luxury of speaking about my faith to the middle school student body I serve. Here is my latest talk. I think it is better listened to than read; however, until I can record it, I’d appreciate the read and your feedback!
Trust in the Lord with all of your heart and do not rely on your own insight. In all ways, acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight.Proverbs 3:5-6
I have the task today to speak to all of you about giving thanks in all circumstances. All circumstances…really? I am going to do my best – but in this particular chapel presentation, be warned that there is a plot twist.
Now, That Was Clever…
I love clever plots. Do you know what I mean when I say a plot, whether it’s in a movie or in a book, is clever? I consider a clever plot to be one in which the author has you thinking one way, almost the entire time you are watching, listening or reading, yet with a twist of the camera or the pen, you are taken for a ride that you weren’t expecting, or that you could have never predicted.
There are plenty of films that offer this idea of a clever plot. For instance, when Luke Skywalker faces Darth Vader for the first time and learns the truth about their relationship – that is a plot twist. At the time this movie was produced, it had the viewers rethink everything they knew about the Star Wars saga, and they had to recraft an image of each character now that they had this new information.
In the Lion the Witch, and the Wardrobe, there is a plot twist that many people reading the story for the first time found totally unexpected. Yet, this twist fits perfectly into the allegory that C. S. Lewis had planned to tell…even though nobody knew it. Now, I will not spoil the surprise, especially because that novel appears in our classrooms and I don’t want to give away the suspense. But you’re going to love it.
And the Bible has its own twist – perhaps the greatest plot twist of all time. There was a movie about the Bible called the Passion of the Christ which depicted this eternal misdirection. First, Jesus Christ is beaten and crucified. That is a story that all of us here know and have heard many times. Yet, have you ever considered how the moment of Jesus’ death is an incredible twist of fate for all mankind? There is this amazing scene in the movie when we witness Satan’s moment of glee upon the death of Jesus only to see him recognize, not one instant later, that his plan to condemn mankind was folly, and that God had the victory in hand since the very dawn of time itself in sacrificing His one and only Son.
Plot twists are fascinating; after all, to create something that is unpredictable takes intelligence, a way with words and/or imagery, and some guts. So, why is it that I enjoy watching and reading plot twists; yet, trying to live them out in my daily life makes my heart hurt, my stomach turn, and my head spin?
To Control or Not to Control…That is the Question
I think humans naturally want to control things – and plot twists leave us upside down and confused. Think about it – when you are in class, and you know all of the answers on day one of a new lesson, you have this feeling of “Whew, I got this. The Summative on this topic is going to be easy! A+ in the books!” Now consider that same “day one” when you do NOT have the answers, and when the teacher’s expectations are really high, and it seems like the work in front of you might as well be written in Greek because of how confusing it looks. That doesn’t feel as good. This second scenario is filled with unknowns. It might make you sick to your stomach.
The truth is – the life we all lead is filled with plot twists, and we do not have the script. The story you will live out today is unknown, and that makes the idea of finding a successful conclusion very difficult. Think about that really challenging “day one” lesson I just described. When this scenario hits, how often do you guys go straight to Level 9 meltdown mode? You all do it! I know this because I’m in class, presenting a new concept, and I hear things like
“Oh, boy, this is so impossible.”
“I don’t get ANY of this.”
“When is the next summative? I’m sooo going to fail.”
It’s just DAY ONE, people! Why have you already made up your mind?!
But that feeling of defeat happens to me, too. If I were to consider what the last 18+ months looked like, all at once, and how to get through all of the curve balls and plot twists I faced, I would have been overwhelmed. All of mask-wearing, social distancing, hand washing, cohort scheduling, digital faculty meetings, core classes online, fine arts via Zoom, internet capabilities for every child and teacher in middle school, Zoom bombing, virtual learning choices, virtual high school visits, Zoom grade level meetings, alternative plans for graduation, wellness checks and all the other hundreds of pieces of school I had to invent to make the last year and a half even happen? I would have curled up in my bed, hugged my dog, and disappeared.
Truth be told, in my weakest moments, that’s exactly what I did. I’m not proud of that choice – it happened. I was not grateful, I was defeated. Since I could not control all the things, I lost control of everything. I wanted to do more, to be more, but I lost focus on each little thing because I thought I needed to look at everything, all at the same time. I lost my trust in God, and so I became lost in a plot twist I could not control.
Look out in front of you. When considering your line of sight, the world appears flat, right? The world is most certainly round, but let’s stick with the physical path directly in front of you for a moment. I invite you to remember the verse I quoted at the beginning of this talk – Trust in the Lord with all of your heart and do not rely on your own insight. In all ways, acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight. (Proverbs 3:5-6)
This verse holds a very important solution to the problem dealing with plot twists and finding a way to be grateful in all things. I know, without a doubt, that my personal perspective is flawed. But God’s perspective is perfect, AND He wants to share it with you and me. If we can trust in Him, and avoid trying to control everything, then we can refocus on the path in front of us. God’s path, the one he wants us to focus on, looks a lot more like the straight pathways he talks about in that Bible verse. You see, God already knows about all of the plot twists and turns in our lives. He has the roadmap. We can surely be thankful for that. When the plot twist arrives, we are called to trust in God and be thankful for the fact that he holds the map and will share it with us.
We can make our plans, but the Lord orders our steps.Proverbs 16:9
Leaning on God’s wisdom and asking for guidance to order our steps along the straight pathway is a sure plan for success. If you are like me and try to control too much of the problem without God’s leadership, then you might as well be running into the biggest plot twist of a scary movie that you’ve never seen before. It’s fun to watch when it’s on TV…but it’s not so fun when it’s in your real life.
So I challenge you today to consider your daily routine. Think of the smallest decision you have to make. Ask God to help you make that decision. Unfurl the plans needed to act one step at a time. Take that step, take a deep breath, consider where you are right now in the moment, and reassess where you want to go with your next step.
Rinse and Repeat.
I am confident that a consistent use of this practice (taking one step at a time, and not tackling the whole thing at once) will move you much further to where you want to go. And soon enough, you’ll look back on the path that you have traveled and see that God isn’t merely on the passageway with you…God is the destination. He has just been leading you to Him the whole time! I think that’s a pretty good plot twist for this chapel talk.
Finally, know that you are never alone – we are all struggling with the idea of where to go next. Sometimes it’s really hard to do the next right thing. Never hesitate to talk to your parents about your thoughts – they want to help you succeed, as do the adults here at School. We don’t have all of your answers. But we will walk with you every step of the way.
Thanks for listening. Go make today great!