Dare to Love
by Spencer Lloyd
I recently ended a nearly decade-long adventure of teaching music in public schools. It was the most rewarding and most difficult collection of experiences in my life. Rewarding because on most days I was partnering with energetic teenagers to create something that had never before been created. Difficult because on most days I was partnering with energetic teenagers to create something that had never before been created. Even after doing it for nearly a decade, I still caught myself being amazed at how two sides of the same coin could produce dramatically different results. I loved and despised my job. Although on paper my main objective was to teach music, I often said, “I teach life, and when there’s time, I teach music.”
The problem with teaching life is that it requires one to seek for understanding in the lives of others who are different from you. Agreeing is not a prerequisite, nor is it even an optimal outcome. Often, agreement just means someone in a conflict decided to stop standing up for himself for the sake of peace. Unfortunately, in my experience, these people just wanted to keep an illusion of peace but not pursue the real thing. This sentiment, this lifestyle is also called fear. I am not talking about the fear that makes one reach around the doorway to flip the light on before entering a room. I’m talking about the fear that reduces the capacity of a life and keeps it from realizing full potential.
I counseled hundreds of students over the years. The symptoms in their lives were far-reaching. The underlying cause, most often, was fear. Fear held them captive. It was in this process of sitting and listening to students that I realized I, too, had a choice. I could retreat away from the mess of their lives; allowing fear to also hold me prisoner, or I could pursue a heart-connection with them. I could pursue courage in the face of fear.
In my experience, there is only one thing that successfully says no to fear every time, love. Consider this, in the moments when I was not afraid to sit across from someone who was different than me (many times VERY different), I was demonstrating a value for what that person had inside. I was able to look in their eyes and say, “let’s do this together.” I did that class period after class period, day after day, year after year. Every time I chose to sit across from someone, I faced the possibility of rejection. And every time I chose love instead of fear. However, it did not always end wonderfully. I did get rejected, students did give me a proverbial spit in the eye on more than one occasion. But I would wipe away the mess and welcome in the next one.
I once said about teaching that one must be willing to allow their heart to be broken every day, and be willing to come back and do it again tomorrow. I did that, not perfectly, but I did it. Student after student came in front of me, told me their story, invited me in. My heart would break; when asked, I would offer advice. Sometimes--most of the time--students just needed someone’s heart to break with theirs. That was OK. But how many times can a heart be broken before it stops working? Herein lies the importance of personal health. Healthy people heal faster. Take care of yourself.
If you are courageous enough to choose engagement over disengagement, action over inaction, compassion over apathy; make sure you are healthy. Take time to find out what feeds you. How do you recharge the fastest? Stop calling those little things “guilty pleasures” and just enjoy them. You have worked hard for them and you deserve it. More importantly, pay attention to your mental and emotional health. If you do not entirely believe me that it is good for you, do it for the person sitting across from you who needs you to be fully present, who needs you to be courageous for them.
If you have never done what I described above--in education or elsewhere--I dare you to do it. I dare you to get your hands messy in the dirt of someone’s life. I dare you to be love for someone so the fear that is holding them captive, the fear that keeps them from walking in all that they were created to be gets obliterated. It is dangerous, it can be painful, but I know and attest with one-hundred percent certainty that it is and always will be worth it. So go on, let your heart be broken so someone else’s can be whole.
**Spencer Lloyd is a new pastor at the church where he grew up. Full-time ministry is new to him as all his prior work has been in education. Following grad-school, Spencer took a position at a nearby high school where he worked as a choral music educator for two years. Before that, and immediately after finishing his undergraduate work at Indiana Wesleyan University, he was a choral director in Indianapolis Public Schools. Spencer has three beautiful and amazing children, a most supportive wife and currently resides in Marion, IN.