A Worker in the Vineyard
Think about a time in your own life when you were pretty much at your (emotional/spiritual) rock-bottom low. What insight did you gain about life and faith from that difficult time? How did that insight come about? Who or what helped make that happen?
My own lowest-low time came when I was 24 years old. Just three weeks short of what would have been my first wedding anniversary, my spouse never came home one evening, which in itself was significant, but it was a pressing concern because we had plans to drive to his sister’s for an overnight visit. Upon returning close to midnight, he casually responded to an offhand remark I made by revealing that he didn’t want to be married, had never wanted to get married, and thought we should just “break-up.”
And just like that, life as I knew it changed forever. Once I recovered from the shock and came to understand that there was no chance of reconciling, I picked up the shattered pieces of my life and vowed to learn, fix, heal, and ultimately become a better, stronger, and more whole person.
One of the most difficult pieces of this process was coming to terms with my own Crisis of Faith. I was a theology teacher—teaching New Testament Scripture to high school sophomores—at the time. I had a Bachelor’s degree in theology. I was not only committed to my Catholic, Christian faith, but I had specific, poignant conversations with my estranged spouse during our 17 month engagement about the Sacrament of Marriage, about the Covenant which we would be entering into, and about how divorce was not an option. Not for me, anyhow.
An excellent therapist helped me dissect the unhealthy dynamics and patterns which led to this whole situation, but I was still left with the God question:
I had given my life to God.
How could God have allowed this to happen to me?
When I returned to my classroom after taking a week off to get my head together, I told my students that I was “going through a difficult time,” which was an understatement, but it was all that I could muster. It was incredibly difficult to be teaching about the faith when I was so very angry, confused, hurt, and broken in my own relationship with God.
So it was in this context when I happened to assign a Critical Thinking Reflection on the “Workers in the Vineyard” parable (Matthew 20:1-16).
As I facilitated a class discussion with the 15 year olds, one kid raised his hand and earnestly asked:
Still a novice teacher at the time, instead of prompting him to think it through or asking other classmates to respond, I sought to answer his question directly. And when I did, I heard the truth that God was trying to speak to me come out of my own mouth:
Or are you envious because God is generous?
The kid paused for a moment and said “Hmm, I never thought about it like that”. And there I am standing in front of a class of 36 students, apparently continuing to facilitate a discussion, thinking to myself, “Me neither, kid… me neither”.
Yep. I thought I “deserved something more” because of my efforts. I couldn’t believe I actually had a sense of entitlement. With God.
It’s like when we were in elementary school and would race to be first in line (for almost everything). There was actually a sense of superiority that being first had for those at the front. As an adult, I see how juvenile the need to be first was; I mean we’d all be going to the same place. I can imagine how frustrated God must get with us for fixating on this juvenile need, and then getting all irate at the perceived injustice of someone “cutting in line.”
With greater humility, I began to look at my situation, which was honestly the consequence of actions. God’s care, concern, and presence enveloped me in the network of support from friends and family.
Just as my divorce and annulment were a turning point in my personal journey, this insight from the “Workers in the Vineyard” parable was a turning point in my faith.
This was my story. This was my insight. This was my process. How about you?
And so I conclude as I began:
- Think about a difficult time in your own life.
- What insight did you gain about life and faith from that difficult time?
- How did that insight come about?
- Who or what helped make that happen?
“Harvesting Grapes © Depositphotos.com/Bunyos30″
[…] at her with tears in my eyes. “No. I can’t say that. I do have a huge regret. My first marriage was a huge mistake. I regret that it ever happened. I regret making that choice. With every fiber of my being, I […]
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I obviously knew some of this story, but I didn’t know the part about the students, the lesson and the answer. WOW. That is very moving and powerful. Thank you for sharing so much; I know we all need this lesson at some point or another. BTW, I love the picture of you here, it’s so appropriate! But then again, I like that picture in general so I could be bias…
This is really good. In my experience some of my fellow nurses NEED something like this. It helps a lot- delicious food for thought.
I saw this post yesterday and didn’t have the time I wanted to really sit with it so I put off reading it in its entirety until today. Your insights are beautiful, so very precious and true. How ironic that, when we proceed with this kind of mind-set, we really can look back on those times that were so difficult and say with profound humility and gratitude, “Thank you, God.”
Thanks, Julie…I needed to read that. -S-