Tuesday, July 31, 2012

INSPIRATION: Strong Enough

Sometimes I feel as if God thinks I have unlimited strength. Or patience, or willpower, or discipline, or compassion, or mercy, or humility. For those who know me, it is no secret that this past year was difficult on many different levels - professionally, personally and spiritually.

My second year as a principal was challenging. Changing a building or a textbook, a website or a schedule is easy. Changing a culture, though, is not.

My wife's second pregnancy, while much improved, has taken a toll on me. Her extreme sickness during the first half of the pregnancy taxed me in ways that I didn't think were possible. My schedule for those weeks was grueling. Emotionally, I was a wreck. Spiritually, I was drowning. Issues at school seemed to be coming at a frantic pace. Looking back on it, I'm not quite sure how I was able to make it through (and I'm sure that some would argue whether or not I really did make it through).

After revealing some of these struggles in an April post, a friend texted words from a WWII poster in Great Britain, "Keep calm and carry on." My brother shared with me the story of codfish (who are actually made stronger by fighting with catfish - http://arloasutter.blogspot.com/2007/08/why-we-need-adversaries.html).

And, somehow, it's August 1. I have a million things to complete before our teachers report next Thursday August 9 and at least double that before students report on August 20. I can't sleep. I can't seem to find peace in my prayer life. I haven't consistently exercised since June. Thoughts creep into my head that I'm not strong enough, that there is no way everything will get done. There is no way I'll be able to do all that is expected of me.

Luckily for me, I don't do it alone. Not only has the Lord blessed me with a wonderful "cloud of witnesses" in my family, my colleagues, my friends and my mentors, but He has also given me His grace.

Teaching (and I take liberty to include myself in this profession even though I'm a principal) is the most important profession in the world. Teachers, with each student who passes through their classrooms, are shaping our future. They are responsible for the formation of other humans. They affect eternity. As such, teaching can become incredibly taxing. The weight of lesson plans, angry parents, demanding administrators, energetic students, and assembly period schedules (when you miss your 3rd period English class for the 5th Monday in a row!) can crumble us to our knees. Add to that any sort of personal struggle (the bank closing before you've left the building, a fight with a loved one, a sick child, etc.) and the mountain can seem insurmountable.

But with God's grace, all things are possible. St. John Baptist de La Salle, the patron saint of teachers, urges teachers,
"Be satisfied with what you can do, since God is satisfied with it, but do not spare yourself in what you can do with grace; and believe that, provided you want it, you can do more with the grace of God than you think."   
With God's grace, we don't have to be strong enough because He already is- strong enough for both of us, for all of us, for anything.

Keep calm and carry on. It's just another catfish.      

Monday, July 23, 2012


In 2010, at the age of 30, I became the principal of Incarnation Catholic School. In addition to starting my tenure as the school's leader, I also became a father within that same calendar year. Within a span of two months, I went through two life changing events.

In the two years since, I have had to rely on my faith in many and various ways. As a new principal of a Catholic School, I have prayed heavily for the strength to remain focused on and committed to our school's mission of inspiring life-long learners, challenging each individual in the school community to become a disciple of Christ and striving to live out our Catholic faith through service. Distractions from this mission abound, especially as the leader of the organization. Complaints, unexpected hiccups, emergencies and the ebb and flow of working with people and for people wear on our ability to stay committed to an idealistic vision.

The fact that we're building a cathedral can get lost when we're digging a ditch. The process itself can be dirty, frustrating and difficult. Staying dedicated to our mission requires staying dedicated to Jesus.

As a new father, I have been confused more frequently than I've been certain. Having a newborn and being entrusted with her care and nurturing and not having any worthwhile experience as to how to successfully do this has caused me to pray for the Lord's strength and direction. Being a father has led me to a deeper appreciation for the love that God, our Heavenly Father, has for me. It has challenged me to love more deeply and unconditionally. It has inspired me to love more. I am currently praying for the strength, wisdom and guidance to be the father of two...

St. Joseph has been the recipient of many of my prayers over the past two years. A statue of Jesus's earthly father is in the back of our church (as the Church of the Incarnation, there is one of Mary, too). Many days I will sneak away from the office, into the vacant church, and kneel before this model of self-sacrifice, humility and hard work. On countless occasions I have prayed to St. Joseph that he help me to lead not only my school community but also my family. I would like to believe that these prayers have not been made in vain.

Moriah Peters, an up and coming Christian music artist who tried out for American Idol (and was told by the judges to go and make some mistakes, kiss some boys, and come back in a few years when she's grown up and more worldly), sings in her song Well Done, "If people walk with me, talk with me, looking for truth / They're gonna find out soon / If they're following me then / They're gonna follow You."

I pray for guidance, Lord. I pray for strength. I pray for wisdom. I pray for patience, compassion, mercy, and peace. I pray that you lead me, Lord, so that I may lead others - Incarnation Catholic School, my wife, my daughter, my future son / daughter, readers of this blog, anyone with whom I come in contact - to you.

Lead me, Lord. Lead me.