One of the many benefits of being in a Christian academic community is the liberty to discover and discuss treasures hidden in the living word of God. This can simultaneously be a prickling experience as an educator. This semester in my Early Childhood Homeroom, we have been focusing on Bible Truths. And when we came to the account of Jonah this spring, I found myself in the midst of a personal reckoning.
During the pandemic, I was quite unbothered as a homeschooling mother of four. For the most part, life carried on as it had previously. One of the silver linings our family encountered was the opportunity to serve alongside a missionary family that was forced to remain stateside during their holiday visit home. The Simpsons were a family of five that was peculiar in the most amazing ways. With zero hesitation, while the world was on pause, they resumed their heavenly business as usual and spear-headed with an inner-city missions project. They purposefully moved into a dangerous apartment complex ridden with criminal activity – with their children – with the sole intention of impacting the community with The Gospel. As God would have it, our paths crossed when we were connected through a discipleship program. It was an instantaneous connection; we had never met such sincere people of God before. It was like a unicorn spotting. We immediately partnered with them in service to their new community where they held Bible studies in the leasing clubhouse and a number of other community services throughout the week including reading programs, art classes, prayer meetings, community events and door-to-door evangelism. It was a beautiful move of God and a privilege to witness.
Not long after this our family discovered another hidden treasure, The Saint Constantine School. As an educator turned home-school mom, it was a dream come true. Could it be – a Utopia for education? I couldn’t believe my ears or eyes. “Did you say Nursery through College?” I asked the Head of School in disbelief. I then walked the grounds and witnessed what seemed like a mirage in the middle of desert lands, children playing amidst sheep grazing on meadow pastures and little hands and feet chasing hens. I searched for laughter only to find it coming from children nesting high in tree branches. My eyes danced over blooming gardens, past an overwhelmed sandbox and landed on an intricate treehouse. The only thing ordinary about this play yard was the basketball court that served as a bookend to this wonderland. There was even a small wooded area, affectionately known as Bragdon Wood. I was perplexed as I surveyed what I’d previously deemed impossible.
Time moved in slow motion in the following months as I continued to process my reality. I was surrounded by so many extraordinary people with a shared love for God. I have never known such unity in a work environment. I was often asked by my fellow educators the very question I pondered myself: “How did you find this place?” We all settled on the same answer: it was God alone who called us together to participate in such a wonderful work of His doing.
Before the completion of my first school year at TSCS, the Simpsons – once again, answering the call of God – were preparing to head back to the continent of Africa to resume international missions. Our family was selfishly saddened by this news and did everything we could to convince them that their domestic mission work was just as meaningful. Yet, when God calls, who would dare to ignore such an honor?
Well, my hand is raised. Nearing their departure, I definitely ignored the strange feeling that they were sent by God to lead our family to our next destination. Remember the days before Uber, when signs were held by drivers at the airport to guide very important people to their destination? Something inexplicable was trying to impress upon me the notion that God had used this global emergency to send for us. What a relief my reason was! It showed up like a pop-up blocker with all the right arguments: First of all, you’re not that important for a global pandemic to usher you out of the country. Secondly, are you seriously even considering leaving the most amazing place you’ve ever dared to imagine? To which I happily thought-replied, Of course not, that would be ridiculous. We are never leaving TSCS. I was certain that was the end of that.
In Early Childhood, one of the most treasured times of day is storytime. It has been an honor to explore the miraculous truths of the Bible with my students this semester. To see their eyes light up as they re-tell these accounts to one another and to hear their perspective of the characters is the highlight of my day. Imagine my surprise when their commentary about Jonah woke me up to a few parallels in my own life.
"If Jonah could hear God tell him to go, why didn’t he go?"
"Why did Jonah think he could run from God?"
"Why didn't he want to share God with Nineveh?"
As I allowed them to discuss this among themselves uninterrupted, I quickly realized I was the student and they were the teachers.
"He just didn’t want to leave home."
"No, because he got on a boat going the other way."
"He wanted to keep God to himself."
"Yeah, he was mean."
"You can’t run from God, that’s silly, God is everywhere."
Curious, I interjected, “But why a storm?” Their answers began to hit home:
"To wake him up because he was sleeping."
"He [God] used the sea to wake him up."
"Yeah, because He is God and he can talk with the water!"
After a few minutes, I asked, “What about the fish? Any thoughts on why God sent a fish?"
"So he wouldn’t drown."
"Because he was in the ocean!"
"To make Jonah think about what he did wrong."
"God was nice [to Jonah] even though he was mean."
"I think he wanted to die but God saved him."
Well that’ll preach. Here I was sitting around an oval colorful rug feeling like I was being compelled to come to the altar after much resistance. I was clearly being called out for my own Jonah tendencies. Though my reasons and excuses differed, as I continued diving into Jonah that week with my little teachers it was hard to miss the personal truths surfacing. I began to see the storm signals in my own life and even recognize the gracious great fish that held me as I wrestled with reason. With the help of these precious little guides, I was face to face with my unwillingness to surrender. The truth is, this wasn’t the first or last redirection to the distant ringing of years past. This was one of multiple divine moments. Filled with dual terror and excitement, I began to embrace the only reasonable response when God calls: “Yes, Lord.”
You may be wondering how my family feels about all this. There’s a wide range of bittersweet emotions as we prepare to embark on a journey to our next destination: Cape Town, South Africa. We will miss our beloved Saint Constantine family, and invite you to keep up with us here.
May the waves of life always inform us of just how near and dear God truly is. Until we meet again.