By Jenna Ebener
Another school year is underway and this year I am focusing on a theme of surrender. Between continuous physical and emotional challenges, I did not start the school year as ready as I had hoped. However, that self-awareness forced me to accept that I need to prioritize myself this year. I need to take care of myself physically and emotionally so I can best serve others.
I realized I can keep asking God for healing but I also need to trust in his plan and timeline for me. I need to accept myself exactly as I am and accept my situation exactly as it is. Only then will I find peace and move forward. This act of surrender is easier said than done, yet I have been able to look back and see countless examples of when I have successfully surrendered to God throughout my life.
As a child, I remember a short time when I constantly looked under my bed before going to sleep. One night, I remember deciding to trust God and I sent him a quick prayer. From that moment on, my fear was gone. One Lent during middle school I decided to give up all junk food. My goal was not to lose weight but to stay focused on God. By Easter, I had grown closer to God and ended up losing a bit of weight that made me feel even healthier.
After graduate school, I knew God was calling me to work with children who are nonverbal. When I found a school in Colorado that seemed perfect for me, I accepted the job immediately. I moved to a new state without knowing anyone and trusted that God would lead the way. Things came together more smoothly than I could have dreamed and I formed many great connections right away.
There are countless brief opportunities each day when we can surrender to God. I can identify many times when a quick incident has happened, such as when I have tripped or dropped a glass dish. In those nanoseconds between the incident and the conclusion, I have instinctively called out to God for help. Sometimes, all I have time to say is “help,” but that is all — and sometimes even more — than God needs.
What he needs is our awareness of his presence; he will take care of the rest. It may not always work out the way I hope — I might still fall or break something but I can always recognize ways in which the situation could have been much worse. The same holds true for crisis situations at work. I often am helping with situations where students have physical or self-injurious behaviors that put others or themselves in danger. I recently recognized that one reason I do so well in responding to these crises is that I trust my body to know what it needs to do and trust God to guide me in the moment.
There are likely countless things about yourself or situation that you would change if you could. What is weighing you down? I encourage you to acknowledge the validity of that weight and to accept that this is how things are in this moment. Now, remember that God is with you in this moment of suffering. If you keep your eyes fixed on the Prince of Peace, everything will fall into place in his time, for God is good. “You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!” (Isaiah 26:3).
(Jenna Ebener, a graduate of St. Ambrose University in Davenport, is a social worker at a school in Colorado for students with a combination of medical, cognitive and behavior disabilities. She relies on God every day to aid her on this wonderful, yet intense journey.)