Thursday, May 26, 2005

This is My Calling

A year ago last February I entered the chamber of the Most Holy One and questioned where He was directing my footsteps. I had been told I would be offered a contract by Westminster Christian School, but I had heard nothing since that promise was made. My impending graduation was three months away, and I was anxious to have the paperwork signed, settling my full-time employment. One night I cried out to God, "If I don't hear from Westminster by tomorrow, I shall take it as your sign that I am to apply at another school." I went to sleep peacefully, knowing that my future was in God's hands.
The next morning, the principal of Westminster called me saying, "Jenny, God woke me up in the middle of the night, and YOU were on my mind. I was wondering why we haven't heard back from you, then when I came into the office this morning, I noticed the contract we were to have mailed to you sitting on the corner of the secretary's desk. Apparently, it had not been mailed. No wonder why we haven't heard from you! I will get it out TODAY in the mail!"
Here I am fifteen months later, having completed my first and last year at Westminster, praising God for working in and though my life in the brief time I have served at the school. My eyes filled with tears today as I read notes from students, received many hugs and words of affirmation, made promises to keep in touch, and looked for one last time into the eyes of students in whom I have invested all that I could possibly give. These are the students I have prayed for, rejoiced with, mourned over, and most importantly, told about my Lord. They have been my calling.
There is no doubt in my mind that God called me to work with them this year. The heart of my ministry is not wrapped up in lesson planning and grading, though it often feels like it. It is in the glowing faces of students--students who love Christ, students who reject Christ, students who are bundles of cheerfulness, and students whose very countenance reflects pain and heartache. Seventy students to whom God has called me to minister. Seventy students who have the opportunity to see Jesus in me day after day. Seventy students who want nothing but a teacher who loves and accepts them unconditionally, even though the world may tell them they are worthless failures. Seventy students whom God has entrusted to me to spread His message of truth.

This has been my calling. Thank you, God, for one wonderful year in which I could catch one small glimpse of your inexpressible glory through the eyes of these high school students.

Monday, May 16, 2005

The Day of Revealing

The day I had been waiting for this week arrived. I had the opportunity to give my poem to my student, not quite sure what her reaction would be. She is a profound writer; I write for fun. She is metaphorical; I am matter-of-fact. This would be interesting, but I knew God called me to write the poem for a reason; now it was His turn to work in a heart.

She melted as I told her I wrote a poem just for her. I told her I had shared it with no other student. She read it, enjoyed it, and suggested an alternative ending. I encouraged her to re-write the ending for me, and she did. The result was beautiful and ironic. I ended my poem in despair, just so I could touch her, but she ended the poem with joy and victory. Regardless of who you are or where you have been, regardless if you rejoice continually or wallow in self-pity, you cannot help but see beauty in pain, hope in despair, victory through death, and joy through sorrow when you fall before the foot of the cross.

The revised poem with her changes in bold text:

Cries from the Cross
By Jenny Schulenburg and Her Dear Student (whose name I will not publish)

Disfigured and dismembered; indistinguishable figure
Neither boundless beauty nor faultless form.
Despised, detested, deserted, discarded.
Nothing but anguish, affliction, and agony,
All imbrued at the foot of the cross.

Carted away to the tree of torture
Sorrowful sufferer led to the slaughter
Servanthood enslaved, yet surrendered
Stricken and smitten; silent when shattered.
All imbrued at the foot of the cross.

Blood splattered from broken brow
Penetrated and pierced, poked and prodded
Fragments of flesh lay lifeless and cold
Vicarious sufferer; sanctioned sacrifice.
All imbrued at the foot of the cross.

Slash and stab and slice and sever
Snap, shiver, shout, scream
Sorrow silenced as death clouds over
Soul submitted; spirit succumbs.
All imbrued at the foot of the cross.

Heavens crack and choke and chatter
Creator and King is crucified
Savagely seeking the sinner to blame
For all this demoralization and degradation.
All imbrued at the foot of the cross.

All my brooding bad blood
Feels this pain; wants to heal this pain
It is done; I have killed the sinless Savior.
My hands and hammer all
Imbrued at the foot of the cross.

Is there no salvation? No forgiveness?
Am I a malevolent murderer? Misunderstood menace?
Am I gripped by talons, tainted, tormented?

Not at the foot of the cross.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Cries from the Cross

As a high school English teacher, I am blessed to minister to many students, each with different needs, hurts, and pains. One student who especially touches my heart is nothing like me. If I could pick one student with whom my life seems to hold no comparisons, it would be her. She hates life, hates people, hates beauty and joy, and most alarmingly, hates that Jesus and Christianity represent hope and happiness.
But there is one passion we both share: writing. She writes amazing profound, though morbidly grotesque pieces that make my eyes water as I read them, knowing that these black, typewritten words on white paper reflect a life filled with pain, hurt, and heartache. She told me all she can write are pieces that are morbid; after all, she is a "cutter." I compliment the depth of meaning in her poetry, then look into her deep, searching eyes as they gaze at my face, seemingly unable to comprehend how I can be so happy, feel so loved, and be so fulfilled.
As I thought of how I can reach her--I an English teacher without any major training in psychology or counseling--the words of the Paul in I Corinthians 9:22b echoed in my mind: "I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some." So I got into her world. I wrote a poem for her that is morbid and grotesque. I wrote a poem about Christ on the cross. The result is gruesome and hideous. It is the kind of piece which I did not think I could produce. Then I remember that God works in our lives for multiple purposes. Maybe writing this poem was not only so I could impact my student's life, maybe, just maybe, God wanted me to revisit the cross of Christ one more time. Maybe I needed to come face to face with what He accomplished on my behalf and stare at it in the face once again. For this heinous, ugly act was done on my behalf. It was because of me.
Here is the poem:
Cries from the Cross
Jennifer Schulenburg

Disfigured and dismembered; indistinguishable figure.
Neither boundless beauty nor faultless form.
Despised, detested, deserted, discarded;
Nothing by anguish, affliction, and agony.

Carted away to the tree of torture.
Sorrowful sufferer led to the slaughter;
Servanthood enslaved, yet surrendered.
stricken and smitten; silent when shattered.

Blood splattered from broken brow.
Penetrated and pierced, poked and prodded;
Fragments of flesh lay lifeless and cold.
Vicarious sufferer; sanctioned sacrifice.

Slash and stab and slice and sever;
Snap, shiver, shout, scream.
Sorrow silenced as death clouds over.
Soul submitted; spirit succumbs.

Heavens crack and choke and chatter;
Creator and King is crucified.
Savagely seeking the sinner to blame--
Turn the mirror and see it's me.