erin ahnfeldt

Listening to Life

Sometimes I’m boring. It’s true. Last Monday, I told my students, “Everyone get out your notes,” and their eye-rolling and sighs confirmed it. It stung a little more when I looked over and saw Jake’s head down. “Jake,” I said with a firm voice, while the rest of the class looked on. No response. “Jake!” I finally shouted. One of his classmates nudged him to help in the cause.

Finally, his head slowly lifted, eyes glazed over, and he said, “Yeah.”

“Let’s stay awake, buddy.” Nobody really could blame him for falling asleep? With our broken air-conditioning, the classroom temperature was probably at 85, and we were talking about the evidence of Naturalism in Stephen Crane’s poems—not exactly on my students’ top 10 list of things to discuss.

When the bell rang, students were lined up at the door to leave, and I heard whispers. They weren’t coming from my students; they slipped their way from my heart into the back of my mind like venomous snakes—you’re out of touch, you’re too old, you’re slipping. I grabbed my keys and tried to shake it off. “Sometimes I’m boring,” I told myself, “and that’s okay.”

There was a Young Life meeting that night. We were honoring the seniors, and after the burgers, the games and some tearful sharing, I walked up to one of them. I wanted to say goodbye, but when we were face to face, the words fumbled out into a meaningless mess. “When you were in my class, weren’t you new to town?” I asked.

“No” she said.

“Well, you were a bright spot. . .in that class.” There was an uncomfortable pause. I didn’t know what else to say because I wanted to continue with the “new in town” lead. We smiled awkwardly at each other, and she was gracious, but we both found a reason to walk away. Again, more whispers—you’re out of touch, you’re too old, you’re slipping.

Wednesday morning, I shuffled, half-asleep into our guest room. In between yawns and wiping my eyes, I grabbed an old journal and opened it up. The entry I found was from 2015, and it was all about Romans 8. The words in the first verse jumped out at me: “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Nobody could see the whispers of those snakes slithering around inside me, but God could, and He did something about it. He gave me a verse to carry with me into the day.

It didn’t take long before that condemnation coiled up again to strike. It was lunchtime, and when the bell rang, I started heading down the hall to the bathroom. Turning the corner, I almost ran into Rachel.

“Whoa,” I said, stepping aside to avoid her, and then I recognized her. “Oh, hi. . . ” Her name wasn’t coming to mind, but I stopped with a smile and waited just in case she wanted to talk. She didn’t.

Her voice sounded angry as she walked passed. “Hi,” she said quickly, and she was glaring at me. No smile. No moment of conversation.

“What’s that about?” I wondered. My mind worked through the question. Was she still mad about the class debate? Maybe she was bitter about a grade. “I’m sure she thinks I suck,” I thought, and I believed it. I believed something she never said, and again the whispers were there—you’re losing touch, you’re too old, you’re slipping.

Driving home that day, a song started playing in my car. It was a familiar song, and even before Andrew Peterson started singing, I was smiling. God was doing it again. He was seeing me in that car, fighting off the whispers, and the words of the song began to wash away the image of Rachel’s glaring eyes.

You don’t have to work so hardYou can rest easyYou don’t have to prove yourselfYou’re already mineYou don’t have to hide your heartI already love youI hold it in mineSo you can rest easy (Rest Easy).

Truth replaced lies. I wasn’t alone, and by the time I got to the stoplight, I had one of those whispering snakes by the neck. I turned off the music. “Okay,” I said out loud in my car. “You suck as a teacher. You’re out of touch with kids and you’re too old.” I let the words hang there a minute, writhing and curling, struggling to be free, and then I asked, “Is that true?” Traffic started moving again, and turning onto Powers, I shouted, “No!” And then silence. The whispers were gone. . . all except one—the loving whisper of a Father to His child.

This is my son whom I love.

With him I’m well pleased (Mathew 3:17).

When condemnation coiled up to strike, God was there. He shut the mouths of those slithering snakes and silenced their lies. The afternoon sunlight broke through the clouds, and I did some whispering of my own. “Thank you, Lord,” I said. The quiet fell softly like a silk sheet, not just in the car but in my heart as well. There would be more venomous whispers to fight, but after the week I faced, I knew who had the upper hand. God saw me, He loved me, and He’d never let me fight alone.