I normally dislike this time of year very much. In the school systems I have worked in for almost 25 years it is always a time of strained relationships and short tempers. It is also a time when a good teacher perhaps feels least successful. There might be all sorts of variables that play into creating this ‘dark night of the teaching soul’ but it is a common phenomena.
Lately I have had a run of personal and professional failures. Call it a self-fulfilling prophecy or merely perceptiveness but this is my ‘brown thumb’ time of year because instead of growing everything I touch seems cursed. This is evidence of a long-established pattern though.
I look back at my life thus far and I don’t see a lot of cause for optimism. I was never a good high school athlete. I was an average college student. The Marine Corps neither gained nor lost much when I was on activity duty and left for greener pastures. On my good days I am a respectable teacher but it is questionable how many good days I have and I have been spectacularly unsuccessful as a part-time administrator. The latest blow to my ego is flunking a test for school bus drivers during which the instructor said, and I quote, “I have never had anyone fail this test before”. I was somewhat, but not completely comforted when a majority of the class flunked said test. In most circumstances of my life in which I could be measured, I did not measure up.
And yet, still, I am a pretty happy camper.
St. Francis of Assisi is often referred to as “God’s fool” because of the apparently foolish way he led his life, foolish at least to some observers. I think I am a ‘joyful failure’. I have everything worth wanting in my life, even if they don’t come with measurements, ribbons, or certificates. The trick, and there is always a trick, is remembering what my ‘worth havings’ are when the world suggests that I should measure myself by different standards or strive to achieve certain things.
Another funny thing about being a joyful failure; everything that I have that is worth having came as grace-filled gifts and not through any efforts of my own. In other words, if I strive for worthless things I fail mightily, but my life is filled with priceless things I did nothing to deserve. I have every reason to be filled with joy even if I am a conventional failure. Julian of Norwich was absolutely correct when she said “All will be well, all will be well. All manner of things will be well.”