This Week’s Key Verses: Acts 16:6-8 “Paul and his companions traveled throughout the region of Phrygia and Galatia,having been kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia. 7 When they came to the border of Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to. 8 So they passed by Mysia and went down to Troas.”
She burst into my classroom, eyes dancing with joy and words spilling out non-stop as she hugged me and blurted, “I tried so hard to hate you this year, but I just couldn’t. And then you gave me this wonderful opportunity that I would never have had . . . thank you so much!” I hugged her and told her she was a gem. And she was. A gem in the raw.
This was a student to whom I’d offered multiple types of second chances over the year. By second semester, I’d still not found a positive inroad with her. And then it dawned on me . . . why hadn’t I committed her to God in my prayers? Way more than just mentioning her name in the Throne Room, could I really commit her to God in my supplications? So I finally did. And then, God. God revealed new ways for me to be humorous and supportive to her, enabling me to be candid and yet warm in my corrective words. One day I teased, “Why is it so much fun to act stupid in my class when you’re really very smart?” She winced – teachers are never supposed to use the word “stupid” – until the realization captured her, that I had not called her stupid, but rather challenged her behavior as such. She shot back, “How did you know that about me? You sound like my mom!” So I began conversations with her mom and step-dad, encouraging them to stick to their guns with the discipline at home, but to always make sure this strong-headed daughter knew how much she was loved. God ordained our exchanges. In fact, I ran into both of them at the gym one day, quite by God’s coincidence, and I felt God’s leading to deeply encourage them in their work with her. Her grades rose. And then, suddenly, one day it occurred to me . . . why hadn’t I thought of this before? This student was probably gifted. A student who goes against the grain in the classroom, who has to know why you do whatever you do, who is impatient and impertinent, and who is smart but gets bad grades, could be gifted. This identification could give new strategies for success to teachers, parents, and the student.
That student had come here this day, elated, because I’d recommended her for gifted testing, and now she’d been placed into the gifted program. I was as elated as she was; what a wonderful new opportunity for her to finally understand her own DNA and grow!
In the midst of this, I was reminded that God can’t work through me until He works in me. The great Potter had to mold my understanding and remove my own judgment and frustration to provide this miracle. He had given me a second chance, to do things His way, to see a student through His eyes, and to respond with a love I’d not had before.
It’s difficult, being human and often so slow to see situations clearly. In all things,
“He must increase, but I must decrease,” as Paul said. (John 3:30) Whenever my teaching is about me (“Why does that student work against everything I’m doing in the classroom?”), everyone loses. When it is more about God (“God, what do You want me to see here?”) and the student (“What is really going on with this student and his/her learning experience?”), everyone wins. Weariness, the endless “to-do” list, and personal feelings so easily get in the way of hearing clearly from the Lord. No wonder He asks us to stop and listen. “Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations. I will be exalted in the earth.” (Psalm 46:10)
I’m reminded of a Jewish idiom for a joyful person: lirkod beshtey chatunot (one who likes “to dance simultaneously at two weddings). “Wedding #1:” We lay down our personal (usually hurt) feelings toward another and marry into deeper humility in the Holy Spirit. “Wedding #2:” We lay down our judgment of the other person and marry into sacrificing what we can to offer them a better opportunity and a reason to grow. It’s a whole lot easier to dance when we lay our burdens down! We don’t have any guarantee that the other person will embrace the second chance we offer, but we know God is always at work.
Lord, thank you for Your mercy, fraught with second chances. May I live my life joyfully amidst my mistakes and those of others, as one who dances simultaneously at two weddings. Listening to You. Loving You. Stepping to the dance of Your miracles, and living out highest praises to You, my “Lovesong forever”!
To hear this week’s message go to www.kpc.org/watch_listen.