What could we learn from Job of Uz?

Photo by Kat Jayne on Pexels.com

Life is just full of experiences that could fill a person with so much suffering. Sickness. Poverty. Death. Depression. We all go through suffering at some point in our lives and we all deal with it differently. What could be a slight scratch for one could be an anguish for another. It is suffering just the same.

In dealing with suffering, would it help to think that life could be half a wreck or somewhat broken already to begin with? Thinking that life is half-broken already, then we come to understand that the chances of both failure or success and happiness or suffering; both exist. When we fail and when we do not meet expectations, others’ or our self-imposed ones; when we experience setbacks, bumps and bruising; then we are prepared to say, “Oh well, that is life and it is what it is.”

These seem like words coming from a mind of person fraught with negative thoughts. We usually resort to an antidote which is the power of positive thinking. I think positive thinking could only get us a mile ahead. Along the way, positive thinking tends to lose its power and the realities that life could be bleak at times, could start to set in. There must be no surprises there when we fail at times. Failures could be painful. We feel the pain but then we learn to move on.

Most of the time, we suffer from our failures immensely. It could be beyond our belief that we are undeserving of failures and that we are all meant to be first, to reach the finish line, to succeed. When we think we are underserving of failures and sufferings, we get tormented even more.

Not succeeding in our health, in our career, in our relationships , in our lives; could throw us off, dissapoint us, hurt us and make us suffer but very often what we consider success is just too much of this world. Whatever it is, of this world; it does not last. It withers, falters or dies.

We all could learn something from Job’s sufferings. He is a righteous man who faced failures and affliction like no other – poverty, sickness and death. He was berated. He lamented his life and how it came to be. He searched for answers and was tormented by his anguish: Is God unjust to allow the suffering of Job who is “blameless and upright”?

Like Job, we can’t escape failures and sufferings. Remember that life can be considered half-broken already to begin with. In life’s finiteness, there is hope in the greatness that awaits us beyond this life. Sufferings that our bodies and minds experience are real but are all, of this world. We look beyond and find meaning to our earthly sufferings by holding on to these words:

“I know my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on this earth . ” Job 19:25

Kapow, to my fears!

Photo by Erik Mclean on Pexels.com

What is it about superheroes that beguile young children? In my nearly ten years of working alongside children in different early childhood settings in New Zealand, superhero play has always been an interest, a hit among children and one learning area that I really like to extend and support because of its richness in learning opportunities.

Imagine children arguing quite heatedly. I’m Ironman. No, I’m Ironman. The arguing goes on and on. Imagine the language learning opportunities here and the words that can be used for conflict resolution and socio-emotional learning moments. Imagine the bucket of tears from wounded feelings that I have helped mend just because children thought there could only be one Elsa at any given time.

Being a superhero in socio-dramatic play, is physically empowering for children. They become bigger, faster, higher, stronger and more powerful than they already are. Think of the monsters they have slayed, the heavens they have flown, the heights they have scaled and the mountains they have climbed.

In between strenuous running, I would often take a break with them. I would often ask what makes a superhero. Almost always, their responses gravitate towards physical strength. You must see us scale the “mountains” of kindergarten as we chase the “baddies” – heaps of heaving, running, vocal improvisations – all to showcase physical strength!

There is one learning opportunity in superhero play that really stands out for me, though. It is the morality of superhero play; the sense of right or wrong that children learn as they play. Children at a very young age, could actively explore morality as they pretend to be somebody they are not; battling the so-called “baddies”.

Morality, I think, could be taught to young children. Being in the “right” could be about being kind. Being in the “wrong” could be about hitting or mocking others.

I am still in awe of all research that supports the New Zealand Early Childhood Curriculum’s (Te Whariki) dispositional learning. Children’s ability to take risks, to take interest, to participate, to be friendly and to negotiate; could be encouraged among children from birth to preschool. Such dispositions could all form part of their lifelong character.

That notion of lifelong learning brings me to the question: What if we start the moulding of our children into the kind of persons Jesus wants them to be, at a very early age? Then my friend, I must say, we are preparing them to become their future selves; the kind of superhero, God envisions them to be – fearless in their faith and loving and kind to others.

Jesus has far more amazing qualities than your regular superhero. Let us draw our children closer to these qualities. Jesus as our God and who is also our friend. Jesus as a great listener. Jesus as kind and loving. Jesus as fearless.

Encouraging children to be fearless in their faith and to be kind and loving, is not always taught through show-and-tell. It is a process that starts at home. Let me highlight that learning as a “process” as opposed to learning as a “product”. While the product focuses more on superficial standards and quality, the “process” focuses on the beauty of relationship; the journeying, the solving of errors, together. It is the constant modelling of kind and loving words at home. It is the constant forgiveness they see at home when one errs. It could be that while playing, we model taking turns. It could even be the constant asking of one of the most important questions of all – How does that make you feel? It could be about modelling feeling words; “I could see how being hit could make you feel very angry”. We need to show children humanity and part of it is empathy and expressing emotions.

In Philippians 4:13, it is said, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me”. If there is anything that keeps us from being that teacher or parent who teaches our children how to to be like Jesus then…KAPOW to our fears!

Self-denial and self-love: a balancing act

Dave Canovas

Photo by Nandhu Kumar on Pexels.com

There are people who are “givers”. They are tireless, always looking out for others’ interests and wellbeing first before their very own. They hardly have time for themselves. They feel guilt when presented with moments when they can’t give any more. Most well-meaning parents are presented with this dilemma especially when balancing work and home life.

There are also people who are “takers”. These people find it hard to forego personal pleasure and interests. They are the impatient tailgaters and honkers during traffic. They “take” every opportunity to be ahead of others. They are constantly comparing themselves with others. They think world resources are dwindling thus feeling the need to accumulate material things while trampling upon others.

While the “giver” is seemingly altruistic, the “taker” lacks consideration for others and whose attitude borders on selfishness.

The giver needs to take a break and nurture self-love while the taker needs to learn self-denial and start making sacrifices for others. How? It is a fine balancing act requiring first, a stroll on the garden called the bible and second, a moment of searching and self-awareness.

We take a stroll in the garden called the bible. In Luke 9:23; we are reminded that “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” Jesus Himself is the ultimate example of this pure, self-less, self-denying love for us. What about self-love? In Mark 12:31, it says, “You shall love your neighbour as yourself”. This verse never left the aspect of “love for oneself” out in the cold. To a certain degree, we are called to still love ourselves while loving others.

Self-awareness is another key to balancing self-denial and self-love. I have always admired the Maori concepts of wellbeing. It treats a person’s wellbeing as a whole, not as fragmented parts. One’s physical body (Tinana) is strongly related to one’s spiritual (Wairua) and emotional and mental (Hinengaro) wellbeing. These concepts constantly remind me to be more self-aware and for example, to rest when I am exhausted. I have found, time and again, that exerting your body to a helpless breaking point could lead to an emotional boiling point. In Mark 6:31, we are called to “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while. For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat.”

In Proverbs 4:23, we are reminded, to keep our heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life. For me, it means that we should never be afraid to say “no” when our cup is not full because we can only give when we are not empty. Therefore, we must not feel guilty of ever choosing to refill the cup, to pause, to sip from our own cup of coffee, to be alone, to take a breath, to have a break. We must not feel bad when sometimes, we decide not to give. It is because we just want to make sure that when we decide to give, we are really able to and are doing it freely, willingly and happily.

Self-love, I suppose, must precede self-denial. When you are less forgiving of others, it could be because you are less forgiving of yourself. When you unreasonably expect others to be perfect, it could be because, you yourself make no room for mistakes. When you find it hard to love others, it could be because you find it hard to love yourself. How we are towards others, is a reflection of how we are towards ourselves.