Following Makes the Follower

I’ve just read another article defending school teachers. It’s the millionth  (probably zillionth) published, rapidly going viral, well deserved justification of my profession. Really, there’s so much written which credits teachers as heroes that I’m having trouble figuring out who the villains are. Exactly who is panning American educators, laying the blame squarely out our feet for the very downfall of Western Civilization? Admittedly my research on this topic is grossly limited because no one is liking and sharing the blog posts which bemoan teachers for being lazy freeloaders.

Teaching wears me out. It’s hard work. And ladies and gentlemen, I am not lazy. Here’s a little known fact that I always want to scream from a rooftop when I hear teachers criticized—the skills, people. It takes an unbelievable amount skill to deliver a lesson well. Communication, intuition, classroom  management, on your feet decision making, maintaining discipline—SKILLS. And that’s just the delivery of a lesson.  That’s not to mention the interpersonal skills it takes to develop relationships with  your students and create a welcoming atmosphere for each class, even though at times you’re met with fierce resistance.

Now, how about planning? When I first switched from teaching English to history, I sat at my desk and cried because I had no idea where to start. I’m not sure about other teachers, but I do a fair amount of research for history presentations. It’s very time consuming. Then, you have to be creative, even a little artistic at times. Technology? Heck, yeah. You better be on top of that.  Time management? Indispensable. Planning is just a fraction of what a teacher does in the mislabeled “planning period”. Teachers act as their own personal assistants. We type, copy, distribute, and file every document ourselves.  In 45 minutes, I may have a stack of papers to grade, a couple of tests to run through the copier, an assignment to type, and five or so emails to answer in addition to all the research and lesson planning. Then there’s the matter of personal business. More than once, I’ve spent the bulk of a planning period playing phone tag with my doctor’s office.

But here’s the kicker, folks. You can’t simply have nominal familiarity with each skill. To be the teacher that apparently we are all expected to be, you have to master all these skills.  What’s a perfectionist like Mrs. Beasley to do? Well, let me tell ya. I feel a lot of pressure. All the time. At least once every school year, I have something like a nervous breakdown. The kids know I’m a basket case and discuss it when I’m not around. It’s embarrassing. I thought it would get better when I left public schools for Christian education, but I have a unique gift for not letting things go.

All this pressure has given me mixed feelings about my career as a teacher. I love planning (the creative part, not all the clerical stuff) and presenting. I truly do. I enjoy my students. But my heart’s desire was always to be a stay at home mom.  As a young adult, I never envisioned my children in daycare, or in full-time pre-K classes, all so that I could put in my time teaching other people’s children during the day and have nothing left over for my own in the evenings. I thought it would get easier when my children got a little older. They’re in the first and fifth grades now, and I chase my tail now more than ever. I’d love to quit my job, run my household, be more available to my husband and children, and write.

I’m sure that sounds cynical, but I promise this post has a happy ending. I’ve returned to teaching several times because of circumstances. It took a lot of years for us to finally have a family of our own. Every year that I returned to school in August felt like a slap in the face. I simply wouldn’t be there if I hadn’t miscarried. Those years were long and bore the ever present specters of brokenhearted loss and freaking out over test scores. Public school, I don’t miss you.

For a few years after we first adopted, I quit teaching and worked part-time. This I could manage. But, Todd’s call to plant a church is my call to plant a church. It’s that one flesh thing, I think. The first time that he suggested I go back to teaching school full-time so that he work on a church plant, I lit into him. It was not my finest hour as a wife, I confess. Amazingly, the Lord went to work on me, and I’ll never regret the decision to move, go back to work, and plant Renew Church. I might choose an easier schedule, but I love my school and I love my students.

Unfortunately, my spiritual gift is wearing my feelings on my sleeve and blabbing my thoughts and opinions to anyone with ears, so it’s no secret how hard teaching full-time is for me.

Luckily, my principal and I have a good working relationship, one characterized by my frank admissions that teaching wears me out and I’m pretty much always overwhelmed. He knew the day he interviewed me that I’d hoped to move on from teaching eventually. That he still hired me is better than any trust building exercise. Over time, I’ve conveyed my deepest concerns about my employment without holding much back. I’m a better wife and mother when I am not obligated to a full-time job. It plays on my conscience to be deprived of the time and energy that I’m sure should go to my family. Recently, he waved me into his office to ask me how I’m doing. I had a miscarriage a couple of weeks before school started. It’s been a hard year.

We had an honest conversation. We always do. He knows that I would like to be at home more and have time to write. He knows that I have to work to support us while we plant the church. He knows that more than anything, I wanted my baby. I assured him that, as worn out as I get, I’m all in. “I know,” he said. “You’re committed to these students.” Thank you for that, Mr. G. I’d like to think that each and every nervous breakdown has been for the greater progress of the gospel.

Then he said something that I wasn’t sure I could accept.

“You’re going to have to be OK with the fact that God called you to teach. I know it’s true because He’s using you here.”

See, this is a problem because that was a really nice thing to say, and I can see that you’re my biggest fan, but that’s not what I wanted to hear.

Also, that’s the second principal who told me that I’m called to Christian education. It’s the second time that I doubted (and resented) this assessment of God’s will. That conversation has hovered over my thoughts since that day. Honestly, it depressed me a little. And irked me a lot. I’d like to determine what God’s telling me to do, thank you very much.

A few weeks ago, I was writing a bible study lesson for my small group when God placed a startlingly simple truth under my nose. What makes a follower of Christ? It’s the following.

In order to disciple, we teach all these different facets of the Christian walk—pray, study, worship, serve. Don’t conform. Be transformed. We flesh out all those simple truths into a litany of specific obligations. Attend church—be there. Join a small group—get real.  Sing in the band—serve in the way that gives you joy. Teach Sunday school—volunteer when no one else will. Go on a mission trip—stretch yourself. Surrender to the ministry—make church your job. Plant a church—even if it’s crazy. Surrender to missions—go where no one else will.

So much stuff. Am I simply picking what works for me and my situation? Why do some women get to stay home but I have to work? And, how do I know I’m not called to something even bigger, like foreign missions? And, if I have a passion to write and it is really fulfilling to me, can that be my call?

A week or so later, I was teaching European imperialism to my 9th grade history students. The presentation includes details of the Chinese Boxer Rebellion between 1899-1901. As we discussed the massacres of foreign missionaries and Chinese Christians, I told the students that one question plagues me every time I teach this unit.

Why does God call some to all that hardship—in this case to be the victims of unthinkable atrocities– but He called me to Baptist Prep?

Funny. Those words—called me to Baptist Prep—that actually came from my mouth. OK, it’s true. If I felt that God had some other plan, that’s what I would do. Also, in comparison to martyrdom, teaching seems so easy. Even funnier, the next thing to tumble from my lips was that startlingly simple answer. What makes a Christ follower is the following. He leads. You follow. Period.

I have a friend who might have made an awesome school teacher, but she is now a missionary in Ecuador. She’s single. Her heart’s desire is to take God’s Word to women in the jungle. He led her there. She followed. It never crossed my mind that God might ask me to follow Him, as a single woman with no children in my future, into missions.

I have a another friend who would much rather be a missionary in Africa than teach school. She owns a salon, her day job, if you will. But she’s also  fundraising for African Christian Outreach for no pay at all. Someday, she’ll be in Africa full-time. She can’t wait for the day that Jesus leads her to Kenya for good. I’ve always been kind of relieved that He never led me to Kenya.

I have another friend who works in a nursing home and I can tell that those patients are richly blessed to have her there. She is amazing, so compassionate and genuine.  Me? I’d rather teach school, or go to Africa, or to a jungle, or teach school in an African jungle, than work in a nursing home. I kind of have a phobia of nursing homes. Please God, don’t lead me there!

What those women do seems so difficult to me. Yet, I’ve heard from my friends again and again, “I don’t know how you do it. I couldn’t work with kids every day.” They might be really relieved that God didn’t call them to teach writing to eighth graders (which is hard, I can tell you).

The strongest spiritual influence in my life, my mom, was a teacher for a short time. I’m sure she believed when she was in college that she would teach for a lot of years. But God led her to Bible Study Fellowship International, and she followed—first as a class member, then in leadership in the children’s program, and finally she became a teaching leader. I’ve always been astounded at the influence she had because of BSF.  When I was a kid, I just thought she gabbed on the phone with her leadership circle a lot. Years later, I realized  that it was her ministry which she conducted over the phone, in leaders’ meeting, and giving her lectures. She taught hundreds of women over the years, but also personally mentored many of her leaders. She also mentored me. Things would have turned out very differently for a lot of people if my mom had gone a different route.

Jesus led my husband to plant a church. Todd followed—and brought his family along! Jesus led me back to teaching. I followed. I’m going to trust Him that our choice to make our lives here will turn out for the greater progress of the gospel—that a lot of lives would turn out differently if we weren’t following where He leads.

In His authority, God carries out His plan. Maybe where He leads you is where you will have the most influence—where your presence will turn out for the greater progress of the gospel. And guess what? That’s hard work, no matter what it is. Going to China or the jungle, teaching or a nursing home—if you’re there to proclaim the gospel, it will never be easy. What is it that Jesus said to do before you follow? Oh, yeah. Deny yourself. Take up your cross.

 

 

 

 

 

Dear Mom of a Bullied Teen–

I hugged your son today.

With all you’ve been through, I doubt those words even make a dent. But I’ll give it a shot and hope that if I lay bare my heart, something good will come of it.

Two things make this hug kind of remarkable. My years teaching in public school taught me that hugs are a BIG FAT NO NO—never ever touch a child, we were told. Still, I gave absolutely no thought to what was appropriate. I just reacted, I guess. He should know how loved he is and I needed to express the grief I feel—and have often felt—over his situation and others. So sue me.

And then, if I believe what I’m told by those who know and love me best, I’m not a hugger in the first place. Admittedly, I withhold affection when I’m not sure it will be reciprocated. No need for worries in this case—your son is genuine. I’m sure he never turned away a hug. And that, perhaps, is what prompts this post.

I’m sure you feel we haven’t done enough. How can I explain why meanness can’t be prosecuted? How does the teacher address eyes rolling? A snicker? Students use disrespect for humor across the board—they tear down their friends. They tear down their enemies. In one situation, their words are purely for laughs and meant to be harmless. In another, it may be harassment, but it’s not always obvious. It’s hard to sort out what’s teasing and what’s torture in the middle of a lesson.

As I composed this post in my head, I tried to identify what I’m really feeling. I’m just so sad. My heart breaks for him, for you, for your family. But more than that, I feel so helpless. We’ve talked ourselves sick about bullying issues and what to do about it. I applied myself to this situation in particular. It feels completely beyond my control and like a complete personal failure all rolled into one.

apple dictionaryWhen I started teaching years ago, I held to an idealistic view of my role. Struggling students just need encouragement. My words can make a difference. I can do this. I can turn lives around. I’ll just be the best cheerleader they’ve ever seen and love those kids to a better tomorrow.

Maybe that’s just the Kool-Aid of public education talking, and a side order of 20th century psychobabble. I’m more jaded now because I rarely saw changes in those days. The student whose school life was miserable on the first day of school tended to spend the last day in pretty much the same dark hole—or worse.

Now, I know there are exceptions. I’ve read the stories—even one recently about a teacher who adopted one of her students. Teachers do make a difference. I know it’s true.

Sure, I want to be a good teacher. I want history to come alive in my classroom and for previously disengaged students to be rapt by my lectures, hanging on every word, taking long draughts of truth in my presence. That’s the goal for every good teacher, and I sincerely hope I get there. But, in my heart, that’s not the difference I hope to make.

Your son, for so many reasons, represents many children who have passed under my nose in my career—who live with persecution day in and day out. This is the difference I want to make. Real change. Broken hearts healed and guilty hearts repentant. Forgiveness. Reconciliation. All of these truths I am charged with teaching—I want to see it make a difference. Right now. Today. For your son.

As sad as I’ve been this week, I realized that a change has been made, and it isn’t a small one. Your son made the difference. For me he redefines the victim—

That kid has guts. I hadn’t thought about it that way before I met him, but a few of my students over the years were downright courageous. Every day, they came to a school that they hated, pulled themselves together, put smiles on their faces and tried for the umpteenth time to make a connection with other students.

Never once has your son shrunk back in the corner in silence for fear of being criticized. Every single day, he participates. In fact, some days I feel like I’m teaching just to him. So I thought back to others, and yes, it is a pattern I see repeated over the years. I’ve known students who could easily have found some safety crouching in the shadows, but that’s not how they chose to handle their problems. They are talented and creative and consistently made positive contributions to the group—even when the group was unappreciative.

He is warm, genuine, kind, and helpful. This is the thing that is drawing some of those former students to my mind and resurrecting this sorrow for kids I couldn’t rescue. I loved having them in my class. They were the ones who chased me down to tell me a story or just say hello. They were the ones who gave the hugs that the administration warned us about. They were the ones who were worried about me when I had a bad day—and did what they could to turn my day around. Your son lights up the room. Not one of his smiles was wasted on me. Not once.

As I’m wrapping this up, I keep asking myself, “Now what?” For the Christian educator, this should be obvious. I love my students. I love the ones who are broken and the ones who did the breaking—and the gospel is for both. I see more preaching in my future, praying more and more for the Holy Spirit to bring conviction on my school. They will never know how destructive their sin is—and the sure judgment awaiting them—if they aren’t told.

“But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment.”         Matthew 12:36 (NASB)

Then, for all the smiles and joy and life that students like your son bring to our schools, I share the same gospel. They must hear from me—relentlessly–that Christ loves them and they cannot be snatched from His hand. Maybe, with a little work, I can overcome my concerns over boundaries and punctuate the truth of His love with the occasional hug. So sue me.

May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.       Ephesians 3:19 (NLT)

I used to know a little about my worth. Now I’m convinced.

chipmunkHere’s a little disclaimer. I had oral surgery yesterday. My mouth is pretty sore, and I’ve got a big ol’ chipmunk cheek to prove it. Possibly—probably—I shouldn’t attempt to write given the medication that I’ve taken. But I can’t stand it. I’ve got to get this out!!!

It’s been a long time since I gave any thought to my self-worth—how I evaluate it, whether it’s too low or too high, etc. Perhaps I thought I had evolved enough emotionally that this really wasn’t an issue anymore. And then again . . .

I had to go on a junior high retreat to find out otherwise.

What I discovered on retreat was that we all need to work through this. No matter how much we mature, we are always either puffed up or torn down by external factors. I left junior high 30 years ago, so I don’t worry so much about what the cheerleaders think of me nowadays. But I’ve only replaced their evaluation of me with something else—-

I catch myself getting either a little manic or a little depressed depending on how many views I get on this blog. If I could just be funnier, deeper, or get more shares, I’d feel better.

It bothers me—deeply bothers me—if I feel like my students aren’t enjoying my class. Nothing sucks the wind out of the sails of this teacher like a classroom full of complaining students. A teacher said to me once, rather condescendingly as I recall, “I don’t think we have to entertain these kids!” Well, I don’t think I have to, but it’s a whole lot more fun for me if they’re having fun. And when they’re not having fun, I worry that I’m not good enough. If I could just be more organized, take more time to plan, be a little more creative . . .if I could just bring my ‘A game’ every single day without dropping the ball, I’d feel so much better.

As hard as I tried not to worry about keeping up with the Joneses, when we were looking at houses to buy, I could not stop myself from wondering what other people might think of my new house. Now that we’re in the house, I worry about color scheme and furniture and knickknacks. If I could just have the money and the sense of style to put together something impressive, I’d feel better.

Over the last several years, we’ve had enormous changes in our lifestyle. We don’t live and work in the same town anymore. A lot of the spare time I had to run in the evenings has been eaten up by working full-time, commuting, and motherhood. Moving to Arkansas brought other challenges for a non-athlete such as myself. It is so DAD GUM HILLY around here. I’ve battled several injuries that have sidelined me for months at a time. I’m just not able to keep up with workouts like I used to and now I’ve gained weight. I cannot begin to describe how much my weight and body image haunt me. Day in. And day out. For. Years. If I could just have the energy to get back to training, I’d lose the weight, look better, and feel better.

I began dieting in elementary school and by the time Christmas rolled around my sixth grade year, I was seeing a counselor twice a week for self-esteem issues and compulsive dieting. This battle of understanding my worth began more than 30 years ago, but I’ve not mastered it. So, in some ways, maybe I’ve never left junior high.

The speaker at the retreat, Blake Hudspeth, called on the students to recognize who defines them, who gives them their identity, who determines their worth. He used Matthew 16:13-20—Christ builds Peter’s identity when Peter confesses Jesus as the Christ.

I was listening carefully and taking notes, knowing that I would be leading a discussion over the message to a small group of girls afterward. Something nagged at me. I know all this is true. I know my worth is much higher than the amount I typically assign to myself. I can list verses about Christ’s love and how it should be the factor that determines my worth. Ugh. What’s wrong with me?

It’s not that I don’t understand my worth in God’s eyes. I’m not convinced of it. I looked around at the students—especially at the sweet girls in my charge. They will struggle and struggle to overcome the definition of worth that the world forces on them. We cheerlead and we encourage and we compliment and we exhort them to recognize how beautiful they are. Why will they not be convinced?

Becoming convinced begins with a confession. I’ve been locked in a battle with God—sort of indirectly—where my actions imply that His appraisal of my worth isn’t accurate.

I don’t value my life if I’m not

  • skinny
    • pretty,
  • smart
    • talented . . .the list goes on . . .

I depreciate my value if I can’t

  • get published
    • be everyone’s favorite teacher
  • run 30 miles a week
    • be the perfect wife and mother and NEVER DROP THE BALL

I’m insecure if I don’t get enough attention—especially regarding the things above.

So, there’s my confession. I try to talk God out of loving me, His creation. I, in fact, imply that He isn’t doing enough to help me attain all of those things and that’s why I don’t feel as good as I’d like. Forgive me, Jesus. Scrub me clean!

Now, how do I become convinced that what God says about me is true? I admit, Blake Hudspeth, I drifted off for a few minutes while you were teaching. I got lost mulling this over because I’ve been in a holding pattern over self-worth since the 3rd grade. It. Must. Stop.

Then the thought occurred to me, who are the people who can convince me that I’m smart, pretty, or talented? When I was single, if a guy I was attracted to was attracted to me, I felt good. Back in junior high, if the popular girl I so admired complimented my clothes or my hair, I felt good. When an athlete friend of mine told me that I was doing well training for my marathon, I felt good. When Todd Beasley told me he loved me, I was over the moon.

What’s the magic formula that makes these people have so much influence? It is because I value them. When the people on whom we place the most value notice us, recognize our accomplishments, love on us—we allow ourselves to be convinced. We accept the compliments and the praise and the adoration from those we most admire because we want so much for their high opinions of us to be true.

Now, why on earth are we not so convinced by God love and adoration of us? Why would I not want His high opinions of me to be true?

It is because we don’t really know the value—the exceedingly great worth—of our Savior. Not really. If we truly understood how worthy is the Lamb of God, who gave Himself up for us, then we would abandon the pursuit of earthly validation. Part of not knowing His true exceeding worth, is acknowledging the exceeding depth of our sin.

We know what He’s done for us. We know the things that He said about us during His ministry here. God’s Word is full of proclamations of His love. If we are unimpressed by God’s love, perhaps it’s because we don’t know Him all that well. Maybe if we press in and spend some time in His Word, we will more fully see how beautiful and cherished we are, and BE CONVINCED THAT IT’S TRUE BECAUSE WE WILL KNOW HIS WORTH. WE WILL KNOW THAT HE IS FAR MORE VALUABLE THAN ANYONE WHOSE VALIDATION WE SEEK ON EARTH.

God Rays

Maybe we just don’t get how awesome He is and, therefore, don’t realize that it’s a BIG DEAL to be chosen by I AM. What He did was rescue us, clean us up from all that filth, and proudly proclaim us His bride. Now, why is someone’s opinion of my house or my hair more important than the One who put Himself on a cross for me?

What is it that you want changed in order to feel more convinced of your worth? Is it a job? Your appearance? More money? Your children and their success? A man or woman in your life? A different man or woman in your life? Some dream that has gone unfulfilled?

As we grasp the worth of the Lord Jesus, we more readily cast these things down to take up the cross. He told us to follow where He leads, and the things He has for us have exceedingly more worth than what we now pursue.

God, give me eyes to see the depth of my sin and the incomprehensible worth of my Savior.

I lost my mind. I don’t much miss it.

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.   Matthew 16:24

Like any Christian, I struggle with how much is enough. “I gave this up, God. Isn’t that enough? What??? You want more??? C’mon!!!!”

As a young adult, I thought the ultimate sacrifice was allowing God to make my decisions—where to attend school, what career, who to date, how to date, to marry or not to marry, and on and on. It’s convenient that I often found God leaving room for my preferences back then. Disciplining myself in the world of dating was possibly the most difficult, but aren’t I lucky that He chose Todd Beasley for my husband and that I was like-wild-attracted to him?

If I were to be completely honest, most of the decisions of my young adulthood were simply my preferences submitted to God for His approval. When He didn’t give His approval, I waited for something else I strongly preferred and gave Him a chance to say yes. It took a little trial and error until I happened upon the things I most desired, but I could soothe myself with the promise that good things come to those who wait.

I left very little room for God to say, “Nope. Absolutely not. You’re not getting married. You won’t so much have a career as a ministry, and I’m thinking maybe in Africa. Pick up that cross and let’s roll.” It’s as if I convinced myself that not hearing God ask me to make a sacrifice meant that He didn’t require one. And yet, in those days, I would have told you that abstaining from sex as a discipline in dating was the pinnacle of taking up the cross. That, ladies and gents, is denying yourself. Amirite?

As I get older, God makes it ever clearer that taking up my cross is an abandonment of me. It’s not just giving up a worldly behavior or waiting for God to say yes to something better. What I think I need, what I think is best, whatever rationale I use for my prioritizing is rubbish in light of the cross. I need the mind of Christ. So I’d better get busy losing mine!

One day as I was reading Matthew 16:24, I envisioned the effort it would take to shoulder the cross. Jesus had nothing else with Him. Just a cross, a crown, and blood. Philippians says that He “emptied Himself. . . and became obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” To follow Jesus’ example, I also have to set everything aside. If I am to pick up that cross and walk with it, anything else in my hands has to be left behind. It is physically impossible for me to continue on with all my stuff, my junk, my baggage, while carrying that cross behind the Lord.

Carry the cross

Now that I see the meaning of the verse more clearly, the question becomes so obvious. What are you carrying that must be dropped so that you can manage the cross of Christ? In moving to Arkansas to plant a church, Todd and I have had to set aside the traditional notion of the American Dream. If I choose Christ, there is no promise that I will achieve prosperity equivalent to or in excess of the Joneses. It’s a lesson I continue to learn. I felt entitled—that my age and effort should naturally graduate me to a higher tax bracket. Entitlement competes with my devotion to Christ. And Christ is better.

What competes with your devotion to Christ? Is it your children? Is your number one desire for them to be successful? Or for them to be spiritually transformed into the likeness of the Lord Jesus? Leave it–the ridiculously overcrowded schedule, attending every sporting event even at the rather pricey cost of neglecting church, giving in to their every whim, breaking the bank to give them the best of material things. Lay it down, and lose your mind for the mind of Christ. Jesus loves our children infinitely more than we do. We give them the very best by teaching them how to follow the Lord by carrying the cross.

What prevents you from committing to Him completely? Your job? Are you shouldering your career with ease but dragging the cross along behind? Have you convinced yourself that you need the money to live, when really you just don’t want to live on less? If you feel secure in your job, then your faith is dangerously misplaced. The Lord Jesus, who is the very Word of God, promised that He provides when we seek Him first. Set it down and take up the cross. You might find it is easier to bear than your worries over money.

What chip sits on your shoulder in place of the cross? Is it pride? Bitterness? Has someone or some circumstance so injured you that your love for the Lord has long since been choked out? His love for you is boundless, matchless, nothing in your past or future alters it, and no power can break it. He is priceless and died for you. He died for you because you needed him to. Of what, then, do you have to be prideful? What wrong have you suffered that His cross can’t right? Don’t take another bungling step —struggling to manage the cross and your baggage.

Is it a decision? Has God brought you to a crossroads and now you must choose which way to go? Every atom in your being screams, “Do what’s best for you!” But obedience is costly. It always requires yielding to God the “right” we feel we have to make our own decisions. Whatever the choice is, you must ask Jesus which way He is going. He will give you an answer and invite you along. But don’t be surprised if He says, “But we aren’t going any further until you lay all that stuff down. Not another step. Grab that cross and let’s go!”

Lay it down, leave it, and lose your mind. You may find that you don’t miss it much.

 

 

 

No Small Miracle

Well. It’s no small miracle that I’m actually writing today. Ever since I went to She Speaks last summer, I’ve been wanting—needing, really—to get time alone to write. But, I returned from the conference and, having not been home in two weeks and staring nine months of teaching in the face, dove into a pile of work and I’ve been at it ever since. If you’ll forgive me a slightly overused metaphor, teaching is a marathon. I’ve been running—looking longingly to each weekend for a break only to find housework and a landfill of laundry that refuses to be ignored. This is why I keep saying that I was made to work part-time. But, God be praised, I love my job. All 40 hours a week of it!

One thing I took from She Speaks had nothing to do with writing and everything to do with teaching. We were treated with presentations from many fine writers, speakers, and publishers. For my life, I can’t remember who this speaker was or what point they hoped to make. The scripture was Acts 3:6-10, where Peter and John encounter a man crippled from birth who asked them for money. “Then Peter said, ‘Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.’”

From the moment she read the verse, I zoned out—went to a completely different place. “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have, I give you . . . Jesus Christ . . .”

enlighted_firm

“Huh,” I thought to myself, “that reminds me so much of a typical day in the classroom.”

Follow me on this, especially if you don’t teach. Educators are bombarded all day long with requests—rather, thinly veiled demands—for what students think they need.

I’ve scheduled a test, but they have a game so, ya know, studying is just a bit inconvenient.

We have a chapter to cover, but they’d prefer to watch a video. And make no secrets of their preferences.

The project is due Tuesday, but couldn’t I just move it to Friday? Pretty please?

What?? A test the Tuesday after spring break? That’s just not fair—even if you have covered all the material and told us exactly what to study! Doesn’t she know we’ll be on vacation? Mission trips? Asleep?

I had a student in Texas who was a master at needling me about this stuff. She was a great student, and we got along famously. She had a nasally quality to her voice, so even though I truly loved her, most of my memories of her are probably her least flattering moments. The child could work a nerve. “Mrs. Beeeee-zzzlyyy!! Five paaaaa-gessss? Couldn’t we just write two? We have a math test tomooooooorrrrrrrowwwwww, can’t we move our quiz to Thurrrrrrrsday? I love your class, Mrs. Beasley, but this stuff is sooooooooooo borrrrrinnngggg!!”

teacha

Hey, teachers, how rich would you be if you had a dollar for every time you wanted to say, “And this is a picnic for me, too, Cupcake, let me tell ya. Now, find someone who cares or tell the wall. Beasley out.”

I have to say—that I rarely unleash the full force of my sarcasm on some poor unsuspecting student is no small miracle. Congratulations. To. Me.

But as this speaker was presenting—and I’m completely missing the point of what she’s trying to say—I saw the connection between the cripple and my students. They think they know what they want. They think they know what they need. But what they’re asking for is a fix. What they want will no more meet the deep needs in their lives than a band-aid will cure cancer. I could make some adjustments to give them ease, to make things more comfortable, but it absolutely will not make them better students and they’ll be further from the goal than the day they first entered my classroom.

So often I can’t give the students what they’re asking for at any rate. They just want things to be easy when I’m supposed to put them through their paces. But I have something they need— and they don’t even know to ask for it. Language arts, history—these are just vehicles that God has provided for me to share with students what their souls truly crave.

I have Jesus, and they need Him.

It’s no small miracle that I so keenly feel their need. I used to approach teaching from the rather entangled, obscured view of my own perfectionism. Never did I feel that I was accomplishing anything. And likely I wasn’t. What a miserable way to spend an otherwise fun and rewarding career. Today I see my life—all of it—through the lens of what Christ did for me, and all the blessings that are mine because of the cross. Now, instead of focusing on my performance and how the students’ performance reflects poorly on me, I’m more concerned about reflecting the glory of my Savior and inviting my students to know and follow Him, deepen their devotion, and abandon the things that compete with their love for Christ. Sometimes in class I can’t wait to get to the biblical principle in my lecture—it’s like a “fire shut up in my bones”. I don’t want to hold it in!

No, students, I can’t reschedule the quiz, move back the deadline, show a video instead of lecturing. What I have, I give you.

I have Jesus. I was blind, but now I see. I was once darkness, but now I am light in the Lord. I was dead, and now I live. It’s. No. Small. Miracle.

darkness and light