by Dr. Anna Ivey • Director of Student Support Services
In 2013, I chaperoned a World Impact trip to Greece. One of the stops on the eight day journey was at Ephesus, Turkey. The day we pulled up to port, it was drizzling and cold, and I did not take pictures because I was worried my camera would get damaged. The pace was more hurried because of the rain, but we did stop in the amphitheater.
Amidst the umbrellas and water darkened rain jackets and ponchos, I remember the acoustics were so clear that a person could stand on the stage and the entire stadium could hear a speaker, sans microphones. We tested it, of course, and marveled at how little it took for our words to carry over the span and space of the stone steps to where ancient ears would have been listening.
Paul writes to that same audience in Turkey in Ephesians 5:1: “Follow God’s example in everything you do, because you are his dear children.”
As a kid, I used to ask my Mom “why?” all the time: “Why do you fold towels that way?” or “Why can’t we play wrestling at Grandaddy’s house next to the china cabinet?” or “Why do we have to pack so much stuff to go to the beach?” I genuinely wanted to understand. I like logic and reason, and I prefer whenever possible to comprehend the train of thinking that leads to decisions. I know in theory I should follow the Lord’s example, but what helps me to do so well is to situate myself completely in his purpose of “why.”
It is so easy to let other orators speak out from the stage, filling the stadium with conflicting messages about who God is and if we are safe or not as his child. Jesus forewarned us of the challenges we would weather, like any good leader would. “Here on earth, you will face many trials and sorrows,” he explained in John 16:33, “but take heart. I have overcome the world.” The temptation to shift into becoming a child of fear or overwhelm is likely very real for many of us, and we must make active choices to choose whose we will be.
Financial strain, caring for medically compromised family (or yourself), helping your children navigate digital learning (is anyone else fighting with a four-year-old over how to write the letter “N”? Just me?), limited social interactions…all of these issues, and others, in this span of reality can call into question whether it really matters if our responses come out of faith. Don’t we just need decisions now? Don’t we just need answers to be ok? Isn’t the urgent ready to morph into a tyrant Even with the forewarning that we know life here will not be easy, I mean, did we really think this was included?
Yet, it is. All of it is. A “dear child” has no craving for answers for tomorrow. A “dear child” yearns for time with Daddy and delights in it. A “dear child” has every need met, even though he or she may not realize it. A “dear child” can laugh and sleep well, and enjoy a day of play. A “dear child” is at peace and completely open to the influence and adoration of a heavenly Father, naturally emulating that same love to others.
A “dear child” can hear the whisper of the Lord in the amphitheater seating of his heart—even one that can seat 25,000.
As we look to the school year closing, I pray you can lean into Jesus as the source of your peace. We must be wise. We must manage what is ours to manage for the time we are given. I did not become a teacher to educate children from behind a screen. I became a teacher because I believe that education through a Biblical lens is the most beautiful and most crucial gift to hand to a child. How else can I show them that Scriptures are true than leading by example, out of a heart of rest, remembering I am a “dear child” of God, as are each of them?
What a privilege to get to lead a classroom with the freedom to share with the kids that they have nothing to fear, for they are already loved, as dear children.
Since 2009, Anna Ivey has been working at ELCA exclusively in Student Support with her favorite type of student: the non-traditional learner. She teaches high school English and also serves as the Director of Student Support Services. She received her Bachelor’s and Master’s in English from Clayton State University and her doctorate in writing from Georgia State University. She has published two books, as well as individual pieces in dozens of journals. Her children are Aralyn and Cade, who also attend ELCA.