A group of friends arranged to attend their 25th high school reunion. While there, they started reminiscing about old times, and remembered an English teacher they all had. Miss Phillips combined both threat and love, and they all agreed that she accomplished a lot with her students. Years later, each of them still vividly remembered her classes, yet none of them had had any contact with Miss Phillips since their graduation. None of them had ever taken the time to thank her or to tell her how much she meant to them. In fact, they all agreed that they didn’t know how much her teaching meant to them until years after they had graduated from high school. Miss Phillips taught them what faith was all about by giving her life to the classroom. She had her eyes set on a site, not immediately available, but one which she knew would be there in the future—-a future she would never see. Their lives and what they had accomplished were testimonials to the validity of her faith. And yet, she never knew.
I remember speaking to a teacher one time who said to me something I will never forget: “A good teacher has to be in love with the process of planting the seed, but cannot need to be around for the harvest.” I think this is the main point of the story which I have just shared with you. And this important point must also apply to the challenging job of being a parent—-especially these days!
What would you say is the biggest heartache, maybe even the greatest sorrow, of being a parent? It’s that as much as they want to, as much as they try, they cannot keep their children from pain. No parent can completely protect their children from life’s dangers—-nor can they hope to be understood even if they try.
So what can parents do? What can teachers do? They can do the best they can. They can give their children the tools to cope with the difficulties and challenges of life. These tools are internal more than external. They are values—-Christian values—-to help them grow strong, especially at the “broken places” of life. What will sustain a parent—-or a teacher—-for that matter? They must both take the long view, and not need to be focused on the harvest. In order to do this one has to have faith. This is what God asks us to do—-this is what His Word challenges us to do. It tells us that having children in these dangerously uncertain times is an act of faith; going to church in a faithless time is an act of faith; teaching, guiding, coaching and living a moral life in a cynical time is an act of faith; praying for your children, grandchildren, who have fallen away from the Church in a rootless time is an act of faith; holding on to values in a valueless time is an act of faith.
So, take the long view, trust God at every turn, remain faithful even when it’s hard to do so, loyal even when you’re mocked for being so. Plant the seeds of the future with your compassion, your fidelity and your prayer. Remember, after all, that we are instruments in God’s hands. God is the one in charge.
Here’s a powerful prayer by soon-to-be-Saint, John Henry Newman, that has always been a help to me:
God has created me to do some definite service. He has committed some work to me which he has not committed to another. I have my mission.
I may never know it in this life, but I shall be told it in the next. I am a link in a chain, a bond of connection between persons. He has not created me for naught; I shall do good—-I shall do his work; I shall be an angel of peace, a preacher of truth in my own place while not intending it, if I do but keep his commandments.
Therefore I will trust him. Whatever I am, I can never be thrown away. If I am in sickness, my sickness may serve him; in perplexity, my perplexity may serve him. If I am in sorrow, my sorrow may serve him.
He does nothing in vain. He knows what he is about. He may take away my friends, he may throw me among strangers, he may make me feel desolate, make my spirits sink, hide my future from me—-still he knows what he is about.