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When A Student Gets Emotional Because of the Question, “How Are You?”

I facilitated a class of graduating students few Saturdays ago in De La Salle University (DLSU). I was given two weeks to prepare for this class. But I roughly had a day of preparation because I was swamped by other things. This facilitation is part of an on-going assessment of me for a part-time role in the said University. I can’t share the details now but perhaps in the near future.

There was a theme given to me and I had to think of a topic in accordance to that theme. I was only given 20 minutes to facilitate the entire thing. I explain too much whenever I speak in front of people so the time limitation got me worried. To make it more nerve-racking, the time slot given to me was changed from 9:00 AM to 1:30 PM which is the time when students are too sleepy to function for class because they just ate lunch. So the first two minutes should be dedicated to an energizer activity – making the 20 minutes… 18 minutes.

I was not really concerned of whether or not I’ll pass the assessment that has already been going on for the past three months. I was more concerned if the students and the assessors (which included a University Director) will be able to get something useful and practical after our discussion and activity.

I prayed, prayed and prayed. “God, I need a topic. There’s nothing much in my head. If the topic will just be about me, please do not let that topic occur to me. Give me a topic that will glorify You. Give me a topic that will make them see You.”

Friday night, right after my Bible-study time with Grace, I rushed to my computer and started creating the slides. I can’t explain how God was guiding me but every “aha” moment was a confirmation of His goodness.

I outlined the slides in my head but I still didn’t know how on earth I can be able to finish all of it in 20 minutes. I thought, “I’ll just practice a run through tomorrow morning.” It turned out that the 1:30 PM reschedule was a blessing in disguise because it gave me more time to prepare, plan and practice. I even took a power nap one hour before my schedule!

My mom ironed the dress I wanted to wear. My younger sister put makeup on me. My Bible study leader and church friends were praying for me. A church friend brought me breakfast and lent me his flash drive. All that support and encouragement? How can I not praise God?!

I came inside the assigned classroom 15 minutes earlier than my schedule. The techie-side of preparations was all so easily figured out. Praise God! I had an iced coffee in my hand and a time to pray around — begging God to intercede because I just can’t do it myself. The Holy Spirit was constantly telling me that trying to do my best will just mess up the whole thing. I desperately needed God to step in and make His way.

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Lo and behold, 70% of what I practiced did not come out of my mouth. The energizer activity was finished in less than a minute. The lecture part was finished in just 5 minutes – giving us more time for the activity. The five-point instruction I had in mind for the activity suddenly changed to “Ask your seatmate the question: ‘How are you?'”

After the class, while I was still standing in front, the main assessor asked EACH student, “What can you say about the class?” It was a hot spot.

If you’ll ask me to personally evaluate myself after that class, I’ll give myself a 2 out of 10. My hands were sweating cold the entire time. I lost track of my outline. I was babbling my way through the session. I don’t know if they could hear my voice crack but I am pretty sure I was running out of breath.

But I was surprised. One student said that the facilitation was the best so far on that day since the flow of the lesson did not feel heavy nor was it information-driven. Another said that it was engaging because we were able to get to know each other in just a short amount of time. One student even got so emotional, he poured out some touching comments! He was thankful for the discussion time because it allowed him to air out the tough things going on around him. He said that the three-word question, “How are you?” meant a lot for someone who is going through discouragements in life. He said he did not know how much that simple question mattered until that day.

Apparently, Jesus did not let them see me; He let them see Him. What amazing protection!

The Holy Spirit will teach you what you should say.

This reminds me of Jesus’ truth and encouragement in Luke 12. In this chapter, Jesus speaks to his disciples while a crowd of many thousands were trampling on one another. He tells them, amongst other important things, “I tell you, whoever publicly acknowledges me before others, the Son of Man will also acknowledge before the angels of God. But whoever disowns me before others will be disowned before the angels of God (v. 8-9).” It is either you acknowledge Jesus publicly or not. The choice is yours. However, the consequence or reward of your choice, which was already laid by Jesus on the table, is not yours but His.

And just before any disciple would answer: “I want to publicly acknowledge you, Jesus! But it’s such a terrifying to do. I don’t know what to say in front of these mad people. I don’t know how to say it and when to say it”, Jesus says: “When you are brought before synagogues, rulers and authorities, do not worry about how you will defend yourselves or what you will say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say (v. 11-12).”

Jesus encourages the disciples to not worry about defending themselves in front of rulers and authorities. You could just imagine if disciples are brought in front of Kim Jong-un (the supreme leader of North Korea) along with his military allies or in front of President Afewerki of Eritrea (whose regime, like Jong-un’s, is also known for the arrest, harassment and murder of Christians in their country), and then they ask you to convince them about the Jesus you are following! That would be crazy CRAZY TERRIFYING! I mean, how can you not worry about that, right?

But Jesus tells His disciples to not worry about what to say, how to say it and when to say it. He assures, “for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say.” This is also found in Mark 13:11 and Matthew 10:19.

Hold up. You’re not arrested, Trudy. Nor are you in front of any worldly ruler and authority. Why are you reminded of Luke 12? Well, if the Holy Spirit can help and will help believers of Jesus in the most terrifying situations, how much more can we depend on Him in less-terrifying situations (such as facilitating a class of students while being evaluated by them, some assessors and a University Director)!

It was so true for me at that time.

The things that came out of my mouth were not what I practiced. I was anxious and nervous and it was frustrating to not be able to say things better. But I am really thankful that the Holy Spirit gave me what I should say. It was so amazing to witness how the the Holy Spirit brought to mind responses on the spur of the moment.

The Holy Spirit knew what the students needed; I didn’t. He knew what will work and not work; I didn’t. And He caused all things to work out fruitfully including the response of the people who listened. Yes, I felt afterward that I could have said things better. I felt incompetent for forgetting the main points to state but I think that that realization is needed for me to see God’s power clearer. It wasn’t about me; it was about Him! The favorable results weren’t through me; but through Him!

As I was walking home after the class, I could not comprehend to myself what just happened. What I was sure of is that God maneuvered everything before my eyes in order that all glory and praise be before Him! He blesses with favor according to His goodness.

Little did I know as well that this will be the prequel to my first ever university speaking engagement. We have a God whose ways are incomprehensible and whose timing is always right. All glory to God!

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