Faithful for 1,700 Miles

Jenna Brooke Carlson, Volunteer Writer, Huntley | November 23, 2023

To the faithful you show yourself faithful,
    to the blameless you show yourself blameless,
to the pure you show yourself pure,
    but to the devious you show yourself shrewd.
Psalm 18:25-26

So do not fear, for I am with you;
    do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
    I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
Isaiah 41:10

I didn’t want to go. 1,700 miles from everyone I knew. A new place and a new culture. Was this really the right choice for my first teaching job? As I sat on a blanket that warm summer day, I heard God say, “It’s not going to be easy, but you need to go.”

So I packed my Chevy Malibu with all it could hold—which wasn’t a lot—and drove out to the literal desert of Phoenix, Arizona. Besides all the usual things you can find in the desert—sun, heat, dust storms, cockroaches—time there became a figurative desert, as well.

Have you ever seen one of those amazing teacher movies, where the new teacher walks into a difficult classroom and within 90 minutes all the kids have completely changed, love her, and she’s living her best life? That wasn’t me. Not even close.

I was a first-year teacher flailing in a classroom of twenty-something first graders who needed so much more than one person could give. Poverty. Immigration. Incarceration. These were just a few issues their families dealt with, and the weight of the heaviness came to school with them. I wasn’t equipped to handle it all.

But God was.

I never turned into one of those 90-minute miracle movie teachers, but I survived. God brought me there, and He was faithful in supporting me along the way. When I felt I had no one to turn to and nothing left to give, God was there.

Around that time, Matt Maher released his song “I Need You.” In the chorus, he sings, “Lord, I need You, oh, I need You. Every hour, I need You.” I used to sing “Every Minute, I Need You.” I couldn’t make it through the day on my own, but I didn’t have to.

God never left my side. He was always there to rely on and caught me when I fell. I had planned to go to Phoenix for a year, but I stayed for five. When I felt like it was time to go, I didn’t come back home as the same person. God used those difficult years to further shape me into the person He’s called me to be.

Next Steps   

  1. How has God brought you through a difficult time? How did you change through the experience?
  2. Listen to “Goodness of God” by Bethel Music. What sticks out to you?