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Pi Day, Lent, and Full Circle Moments

By Emma Bradley (ACE 29, San Jose)

Emma on a bench

Emma with senior portraitIf you know me, there's a good chance you've heard me talk about full-circle moments. Recently — overlapping with the exact day, two years ago, that I found out I got into ACE and would be teaching at a high school in California — I had the beautiful opportunity to help lead this high school's senior retreat and share a talk with my students. I began by showing them MY high school senior portrait ("I won't tell you exactly how long ago this was taken, but I will say more than 5 and less than 10 years ago...") and shared about my own journey of decision-making that led me to where I am today - with the challenges, joys, and plenty of uncertainty along the way...all leading to this beautiful full circle moment: being their high school teacher and accompanying them in some small way along their own journeys.

As an educator (and a Jesuit-educated person at that), I delight in finding God in all things and making interdisciplinary metaphorical connections to my faith. And I've been reflecting, in honor of Pi Day today, what do full circle moments have to do with ACE or with Lent?

It's beautiful and gratifying to be able to see the completion of something. But what happens when the circle hasn't...come full circle yet? Maybe Pi Day has something to teach us here. What if, right in the middle, we recognize there can be infinite goodness, not just because you've yet seen the fullness of the journey, but because there's a deeper trust that the God who will bring the full circle moment to completion is also right there with you — in the infinite ways He meets us (x3.1415926535...) right in the ratio of the circumference to the diameter, as the circle is still in progress. 

Wherever you find yourself on this journey, ACE is simply a slice of a much larger story — in your own life as well as in the trajectory of your school's story and the stories and life trajectories of the students you are blessed to cross paths with in your time as an ACE teacher.

Emma and some teachers on retreat making a heart with their armsAs I look back on these two years and all the "full-circle moments" that have come with it, I am settling into the realization that the ultimate gift of it all has been to come to know Christ the Teacher more deeply. When I look back I see that the hard moments where things felt particularly uncertain, unclear, or challenging along the way are the ones where Christ has met me so powerfully and walked alongside me. And it gives me hope for those areas and places where it still feels like I'm waiting for full completion. 

Sometimes we think that just because we're at the "end" of something it'll be perfectly tied up and wrapped with a bow. This Lent is teaching me that making space for reflection and renewal is less about WHAT you're accomplishing, and more about WHO is with you, who has been accompanying with you along the way, and who will be walking with you in the places you go next. 

It's Jesus who felt the depths of all the pain we feel, who walked through it with us, and who paid the ultimate price to share those joys and pains with us to redeem the weight of our sins — not only that we might be united with Him in eternity, but also experience the depth of communion with Him on this side of heaven. He feels our pain with us, and yet it doesn't stop Him from doing what He knows He came to do. It's not done until it's good.

We might not yet know precisely what that goodness looks like. And that's okay. Can we still recognize the beauty of the circle, even before the "full circle moment" is complete? Because there are infinite ways (x3.1415926535...) that He demonstrates the depths of His love right in the middle. The proportion of the circumference to the diameter. The literal relationship between the border and the piece right in the middle. This Lent, I'm trusting that because of Christ, there is infinite goodness, right here, in the middle. Let's keep looking for the full circle moments and also resting in the in-betweens. Have a sweet Pie day, friends. The story is just beginning.