"And when they bring you to trial and deliver you over, do not be anxious beforehand what you are to say, but say whatever is given you in that hour, for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit."
Working in an environment where you are one of few Christ-followers can be very difficult. In our culture, I am taught to stick to my own beliefs and respect other's differences. At church, I am taught to share the Gospel, advance the Kingdom, and plant seeds in people's lives. I wrestled with this for awhile until I decided to try to show my love of Christ to my coworkers and see what would happen. I spent so much time stressing over what to say and how to say it. I worried about people treating me differently if I spoke about the Lord too much and often wondered how to approach conversations in a Christ-like fashion. I learned years ago that the Holy Spirit lives inside of me, but I never fully understood what that meant. Many of us are like that; we live our lives hearing what we're taught, but it's not until we experience it ourselves that we are transformed. Honestly, I was so consumed with figuring it out on my own I forgot about the Spirit. That is, until fall of last year.
Last October, my friend and coworker, Aubrey Pappas, was tragically killed driving home from school. She was 5 months pregnant with her second child.
When a person experiences sudden grief, the mind goes blank. It's such a shock that the words have trouble formulating. Usually, going to work helps distract the pain and momentarily takes their mind off of the suffering. But when that grief is joined by 120 other coworkers and 1,000 students, it's hard to escape it. I knew going to school was going to be very difficult. I knew that there were coworkers that have known her for years and were going to need support. But what do you say in a public school where practicing religion is not allowed? "...for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit."
That first morning back, Substitutes were placed on standby to cover our classes if we needed to leave the classroom. I managed to make it through first period, but once second period started, a phrase kept going through my mind. I kept thinking, "You need to find Laurie. You need to see if Laurie is okay." I found myself leaving my room and following my coworker, Laurie, through the halls all morning while she checked on Aubrey's former students. Laurie and Aubrey had been teammates for 10 years and shared the same kids. In that moment, I had no control over what I was thinking or doing, all I know is that something inside of me told me Laurie needed me by her side.
I remember crying the entire way to school. I remember crying during homeroom. But when I was with Laurie, I was so focused on getting her water, making sure she ate, following her as she hugged her students that I don't remember my own emotions. I kept thinking, What am I doing here? These aren't my students. This is so painful watching the kids react. Laurie is fully capable of doing this without me. But I couldn't leave.
The Holy Spirit does amazing things in our lives. Last week, I met Laurie for dinner and we found ourselves sharing memories of Aubrey. Out of nowhere she says, "You know, that morning after, when you were with me, every time I started to crumble I looked over and you were right by my side. You gave me the strength to be strong for the kids. I will never forget that."
In Mark 13, Jesus is explaining all of the situations that will happen to the disciples before He returns to Earth. Jesus tells them that many people will put us on trial and expect explanations of our actions, but to not fear because the Holy Spirit will speak for us when that time comes. I believe that the Spirit not only helps us during times of trouble, but throughout our every day lives.
Losing Aubrey was devastating. At first, I had no idea how the school would be able to function without her. There are still some hard days among faculty members a year later, but I no longer stress about what to say to them. I've learned that God has a secret weapon that can be so powerful and purposeful, and I am simply a vessel for His word. God doesn't expect us to always know what to say or do in situations, because it's not about us. It's never about us. He knows what needs to be communicated and how to help us. He wants to help us so much, He put the Holy Spirit inside of each and every one of us! It is one of the most amazing gifts we will ever receive, and we need to use it more. That gut feeling you have? That voice inside of your head? Those aren't you. That's your Helper, the Spirit; and He's telling you that you are not alone in this.
Here is a prayer you can pray every day to remind yourself that the Helper has been sent to you: Heavenly Father, I pray that moving forward, you will allow your Helper, the Holy Spirit, to speak and act for me when words come up short. I pray for opportunities for the Spirit to show through, use me as a vessel for your good. Amen.