Live in the grace of the present moment in order to best serve your students.
By Rachel Padilla
Teaching can be a busy and chaotic way of life. Between planning lessons for the future and grading assignments from the past, there may be little energy left for the present. But as Catholics, we know that Christ calls us to live in the present moment because the worries of each day are sufficient for the day.
This teaching has been expounded by recent spiritual writers who have popularized the phrase “the grace of the present moment.” In his book Interior Freedom, the French priest Jacques Philippe spends one of the five parts of the work discussing the importance of the present moment. Fr. Philippe provides a succinct explanation of how we are called to live in the moment as Catholics.
We are obliged to plan for the future and take thought for tomorrow. But we should do it without worrying, without the care that gnaws at the heart but doesn’t solve anything—and often prevents us from putting our hearts into what we have to do here and now. Hearts anxious about tomorrow can’t be open to the grace of the present moment. (87-88)
As teachers, planning and self-assessing can become second nature. We may find ourselves considering how to present a concept in tomorrow’s lesson when we’re supposed to be participating in a staff meeting. We might be so distracted by reviewing how an interaction with a student went that we have difficulty falling asleep. In these cases, we are not allowing ourselves to meet our present duties. It’s important to make plans and to assess ourselves regularly. However, when these things take over our lives, they can become hindrances to what we should be doing at a given time. Considering the past or the future have their place and time, but this must be done within reason.
At another point in Interior Freedom, Fr. Philippe discusses the beauty of living in the present moment. He explains that it is about more than simply avoiding anxiety and unhelpful worrying. By embracing the present moment, we allow God to work in our hearts.
We do not commune with God in the past or the future, but by welcoming each instant as the place where he gives himself to us. We should learn to live in each moment as sufficient to itself for God is there. (82)
God is in the present. The here and now is where He chooses to communicate with us. Though God is outside of time, we are bound by the limits of our finite human nature and He deigns to meet us where we are in a literal sense. Dwelling in the past or yearning for the future is not where we will encounter God. This means that when we brood over yesterday’s failures or fret about tomorrow’s tasks we are denying ourselves an opportunity to encounter God in the present.
If we spend the class period stressing about how a student may misbehave, we are not welcoming God and his grace in the moment at hand. We may miss a chance right in front of us. The same is true if we are overthinking something we said earlier in the day. Each moment has its own concerns and its own opportunity for grace. God gives us grace for right now, not the grace to deal with a possible future issue that may or may not come. This is why we must focus on what we are called to do in each moment. Making sure to not get distracted when we sit down to grade or to not be controlled by anxiety when we pull a student aside is how we will free our hearts to accept the grace God is offering for that specific moment.
Teachers have particular struggles in living in the grace of the present moment. But teachers also desperately need to be in the present in order to best serve our students. When we allow God to work in our hearts in each moment, we will find that his plans are better than our anxiety and regret.
Rachel Padilla is a campus minister in Colorado.
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