The woman standing at the podium, notes in one hand and tissues in the other, confessed that long before the drugs and alcohol, she wanted to be a teacher, wanted to make a difference. It was just another thing she lost when her life went off the rails.
Not all teachers pursue degrees and classrooms. Some, like this woman and the other being “commenced” among friends at a small church, find their calling in another winding way. Not as direct, not as conventional, and certainly not as socially acceptable as the college plan, it demands greater courage — but may well pay a greater reward.
The two women were starting anew after a yearlong residential program focused on recovery and restoration: recovery of a life they thought they had forfeited, and a restoration of life-giving relationships with themselves, their families, their communities and their God.
Both claimed that Providence led them from prison to the program. For one, the hand was easy to see. She was having a difficult time with separation when suddenly her mother died. It was devastating, but it was also when she was invited into the house and into the arms of sisters willing to share her grief.
The other stayed in prison for months, waiting for a vacant bed. She knew she had one last chance. She was convinced that the house was where that chance would best bear fruit.
It was all about the timing. For one, it was when her need was greatest. For the other, when her commitment was patiently forged and tempered.
They were both qualified. Neither had much of a resume, only a pile of sins, failures and bad decisions. There was the guilt of being abused. The shame of their addiction. There was the loneliness and futility of it all.
Yet these women decided that their past would not define them. They sensed somewhere inside that they were meant to be more. They realized they would not change without personal pain and a greater power.
Over the course of a year, these women learned to hold a job, to pay their way, to do for others, and to trust in the faithfulness of love.
They stood before us, honest and audacious, knowing that surrender and hope transform what is ugly into beauty and worth.They are teachers from whom I learned this promise of the Lord: “I will not cause pain without allowing something new to be born.”