From the Treasurer of St. Mark's:
As we approach the Lenten season the stewardship ministry team would like to invite you to enter into a deeper relationship with Christ through service to the parish. The treasurer offers you the following faith story from his own life as an example of how growth and maturity in one's faith can came in unlooked for and unexpected ways.
"What you get is often better than what you thought you wanted." I read this in a student essay in the early days of my teaching career, and it has stuck with me ever since. St. Paul, in his letter to the Romans, states essentially the same truth from a more Christian perspective: "We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose." No matter how much we may feel that we have messed things up, God will take our bad decisions, poor judgments, and disappointment at not having our own way, and will make something good and holy out of them.
It was the summer of 1996. Bill Clinton was in the White House and I was in Boston, brand new teaching credential in hand, desperately looking to stay there. Having gone to school and lived on the Mainland for the past decade, I cherished the freedom and independence of living on my own away from home. I was naively optimistic about my chances of landing a teaching job, if not in Boston, then at least somewhere on the Mainland. Little did I know how government bureaucracies work (or don't) and how the hiring of teachers often follows its own bizarre logic. So there I was, becoming more and more anxious as July wore on towards August, with my only firm job offer being from the principal of Kalani High School.
While at the time packing up and coming home felt like a let-down and a defeat, it ended up being a blessing and a grace. It set me on the path to spiritual maturity and a much closer relationship with God. Though I have been a member of the church all of my life, it was the crucible of being a beginning teacher and then facing the evolving challenges of the profession over the years, that have brought me to a more adult understanding of faith; and it is the St. Mark's ohana that has provided just the oasis of calm and encouragement for that faith to blossom and flourish.
Some people are able to compartmentalize their professional, personal, and spiritual lives. I've always been envious of them and have never been able to do that. The joys and sorrows, triumphs and disappointments always manage to cross the boundaries I set up to corral them. The flip side to this, however, is that the lessons learned in one sphere can help me to grow in another. It's not a stretch to say that I've learned as much about real-life, rubber-meets-the-road faith from teaching as I have from studying the Bible. Working with teenagers and all of their insecurities, awkwardness, fears, and hopes has taught me about humility, mercy, forgiveness, redemption, grace, and salvation as nothing else can. It has also taught me the need to stretch and challenge myself and to try new things in order to grow and mature.
There has never been a time when I have taken on a new role, whether at school or in the church, that I haven't experienced twinges of self-doubt and bouts of second-guessing. Having seen the same reaction in teenagers who I have pushed to step outside of their comfort zones, however, has made things come full circle. "We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose."
As we approach the Lenten season and are invited to engage in serious self-examination, I'd like to invite you to join me in actively seeking out new ways to stretch ourselves-both as individuals and as a community-and to fulfill the words of St. Paul. Included in this week's mass bulletins are commitment forms with some concrete suggestions for things that you can do to revitalize your faith and that need doing around the parish. As Anglicans we appreciate that maturity in our faith isn't always accompanied by grand public spectacles and flourishes, but comes in quiet, humble, and gradual ways, often far from the spotlight and known only to God. Give God an opening and something good will surely come from it, for, "We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose."
Michael Ida, ObJN
Treasurer of St. Mark's & Stewardship Team Member