I did something today that was kind of humbling... I asked a bunch of 8th graders to forgive me. While I sort of hated to (because they're 8th graders and some of their egos don't need even a hint of reason to think they're smarter than me) I also was really looking forward to it.
Back story. Work continues to be stressful (surprise, surprise) and last week included one of the most stressful days I've ever had as a teacher (details not necessary). As the week was tapering down, I met with my 8th grade Biology class on Thursday morning. Our lesson was on mitosis. I like to teach mitosis with candy. Though I have a really cool lab with lots of fun gadgets like a spectrophotometer, centrifuges, gel electrophoresis... when it's time for an introductory lesson, I always tend to gravitate toward candy or play-doh. Really, you can't go wrong when you teach something with candy or play-doh.
Since you're not in 8th grade, and you're not in my Biology class, I don't think it's necessary to explain mitosis to you- just know that the lesson involved candy (six pieces of chewy, sour goodness) and quite a bit of drawing and writing in a lab notebook.
As I am the teacher (and the person who footed the bill for the candy) I assumed that my students would gladly scribble away in their lab notebook because, well, there was candy. I kept saying things that I considered motivating like, "Okay, the faster you write, the sooner you get to eat your candy!" But despite my encouragements, my 8th graders keps grumbling and complaining about the writing they were having to do. They would say things like, "How many more questions are there?" and "Do we have to write all of that?"
After about ten minutes of this, I snapped. As a teacher, I'm not only a fan of candy, I'm also a fan of sarcasm. I said, in a pretty elevated voice, "PLEASE KEEP COMPLAINING! Because I would LOVE to have a reason to take that candy from you, and we will still do all of this writing WITHOUT ANY CANDY!" I have a pretty long fuse most days, so this statement caught my 8th graders off-guard. They shut up and wrote for the rest of class.
So, I got the result that I wanted, but over the weekend, I began to think about this interaction a little more deeply. I don't think the stress I've been feeling lately is isolated to work only. I wrote in an email to a friend a few days ago that I feel like most people I know are swimming in a sea of prosperity, while Andy & I are floating on God's grace. I could go all Suzy Spiritual and say that I like the floating more than the swimming, but I'll be honest, I don't like the grace float. I look around and people have houses, jobs, money, friends, family- and I sometimes feel like Andy and I are scrounging for some of those things. It's not just tangible stuff, though, it's also things like feeling understood, appreciated, and valued. Those intangibles and some obvious tangible blessings seem to have eluded me here and there over the past two years. And I don't like it. I want easy. I want candy. And I don't want the writing.
At church on Sunday, we sang a certain song three times. The song has a line that goes,
"The riches of your love will always be enough." Every time I sang it, I thought, "But I am not really believing this way. I sing these words, but during the day, I want things to go easy." I want Andy to get a job. I want to be able to save up bookoos of money and buy my dream house. I want to move closer to my Momma. I want people to appreciate me for who I am. I want, I want, I want...candy.
This made me realize that I, too, am a student. God, as my Teacher, knows what lesson plan He has for me at this time. And, like me, He has a purpose that's greater than the candy. I don't give candy just because I want my children to be happy- that's nice, but there's no depth, no greater significance than just temporary pleasure. No, I want my children to happy, but more importantly, I want them to be learning. And learning is about more than just candy. It's about candy and all that hand-cramping, whine-inducing writing.
So today, I told my students that I was sorry for losing my patience. But that God has been teaching me about contentment. And that life includes candy- the blessings that God gives us- and writing- the trials through which we experience those blessings. We need both to learn the important lessons about God that He wants to teach us. And God desires (like any good teacher) that we value the lesson and give thanks for the sweetness that comes along with it.
They're 8th graders- so they had forgotten about Thursday all together- but most of them nodded, smiled and we moved on- maybe a little closer together, and hopefully a little closer to our Teacher, than when we started.