Wednesday, February 4, 2015

At the school house

Gas prices are lower- have you noticed? Most people are excited about this, but in our house, it's a cause for concern. Andy's company depends on the price of gas. The lower it gets, the more we pray for God's protection.

I got to school this morning and was thinking about this. I do this sometimes. I think of how I could have been something else- something that paid me more. It's hard to ever feel "financially secure" when you're dependent on market values for one career and the other career... well, I'm an educator, and we all know what that means in terms of dollars and cents.

"What about nursing school?" I thought, as I headed to the office and the Keurig, with the coffee mug Paige made me for Christmas- the one she drew the chemical formula for caffeine on, the one with my name on it, the one she gave me, even after she had spent a semester in college. "Nurses are needed everywhere. They can make a good salary. I'd already know a lot of the information to start out with."

A few minutes later, I hold my coffee in one hand and with the other, I push open the door to the lab. On the white board are sample problems from yesterday's Chemistry tutoring session, scattered around on the lab tables are the remnants of DNA projects and an insoluble products inquiry activity. The light bank my research class is assembling is a jumble of wires and PVC on a spare table. One day we'll grow Wisconsin Fast Plants underneath it- me and my little Gregor Mendels.

I sit down at my desk and look longingly at the poster on the wall- there is an Earth, a serpent, a wooden cross- it's a picture of the Biblical narrative. Creation, fall, redemption, restoration. It's, more or less, why I'm here. To share this good news, in the context of the science classroom.

But anxiety casts a shadow over the story. Inside, something reminds me "Trust in the Lord with all your heart..." and I ask Him for help in trusting. Trusting when salaries will not rise, but bills will.

I start to grade a quiz, a boy who came in for tutoring on Monday. We worked hard for an hour and I watched his face change. I watched his confidence grow. It can grow faster than those plants from Wisconsin if you do your job right. He only makes a few mistakes. I put the grade- a strong B- and write "Good work!" I feel satisfied and with that, I forget about nursing. I know that it's most likely that I'll never leave this profession, though I'd love to have more money in the bank, less worry, more respect. But when you get to watch confusion and despair turn into comprehension and courage on a regular basis, how can you leave that? How can you abandon the freedom to speak truth into young lives? Especially when doing so helps that truth reach somewhere deep down inside of you, and you believe that good news you're here to share. It becomes not just a part of you, it becomes you, your purpose, THE purpose.

There are so many wonderful professions. Some of them even pay you well to do a job that needs doing. But this isn't really one of them. No teacher anywhere does it for the money. Every school everywhere does the best that they can by their teachers, but it's hard. This isn't about profit, so there isn't much to go around. It's not about the money. It's about that B I just gave, it's about the beautiful chaos that will begin when students enter this room later today- it's about lives that will change- not just theirs.... mine. They're always changing mine. Most of all, it's about the news that's on that poster. We fall and we're redeemed. Over and over again, the story of redemption- the hope for us all.

I realize that the words I remembered earlier are written on my whiteboard in my lab prep room- written by a student's hand. Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your path straight. The Lord led my path straight to the school house. Not much jingle in my pocket on the way here, but there is joy. And the value of that joy never fades, no matter the cost of gas.