The story of how I got into teaching is somewhat of a long one (maybe I’ll tell it someday), but suffice it to say, I’m in this job by divine intervention. Therefore, I’ve thought it fitting to say a prayer every morning in the school parking lot, before I head in to start the day. My standard prayer is something like, “Dear God, please don’t let me get my butt kicked today,” and sometimes I’ll throw in the “please let the day go well for the kids, too.” Almost never, though, do I ever stop to ask for God’s opinion on anything. Today, I did. (It’s Spring Break, but I was still
worrying thinking about school.) This is what I got back:
My primary fear in teaching is that I’m going to screw up up my students’ lives. I won’t teach well enough. I’ll grade too hard. My tutorial times aren’t convenient enough. I expect too much. I’m too serious and will alienate them. I’m not simultaneously teaching and nurturing them as people. I’m not good enough.
Sure, I know the stories about how God has chosen the underdog before to do his work. He chose Moses, a stutterer, to boldly proclaim to Pharaoh that he should let the Israelites go. He chose David, a scrawny teen at the time, to defeat the giant, Goliath. He even chose Paul, a Christian-murder, to become, arguably, the greatest apostle and spreader of the Gospel. They were all good enough for the work God chose them to do. I guess I’m good enough for the work God chose me to do.
But that has not permanently comforted me. What if I’m still doing something wrong?
I’ve even recalled Psalm 139, which says that “I am fearfully and wonderfully made,” and that “all the days ordained for me were written in [God’s] book.” This means to me that I was called to a purpose, and that God has perfectly made and equipped me for that purpose. Despite how not-good I feel, God has made me exactly the way I needed to be to be the teacher he wanted.
Still, I worry that as well-equipped as I might be, maybe I’m still doing something wrong.
So then I turn to the passage equating the apostles to jars of clay. Paraphrased heavily, Paul says that the apostles were weak, mortal, and imperfect, but breakable though they were, God chose them to carry forth the message of salvation, showing that it was not them who were glorious or righteous, but Jesus, whose message they spread. Jesus anointed their words and made them better than what they were. Now, I’m teaching math, not spreading the gospel, but I’d like to think that Jesus would still “anoint” even my teaching to make it what the kids need for their education, even though I know I’m faltering and not explaining everything perfectly.
That’s a start toward some comfort, but I needed more.
So the zinger is this: My third favorite Bible verse is Jeremiah 29:11 – “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'” I’ve always known that this applies to me. Like I said, I don’t think I could have become a teacher without some serious help, pushes, and boosts from God. I had never fully considered, though, that this promise also applies to my students. God will give them hope and a future too. He will prosper them, too. He will not permanently harm them, either. It is impossible for me to screw them up too bad. God wouldn’t allow it.