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I'm Keeping My Teacher Voice

I am not sure there will ever come a day that I will be able to see children running down a hall and not respond in a "teacher voice" telling them to walk. There is nothing still or small about my "teacher voice" at all. And yet, at the beginning of every Bible study meeting I have ever led, I have struggled to command the women's attention and begin. (Ironically, I usually look around the room for a teacher to help me out.) I lack the confidence sometimes to stand and deliver the message that has been given to me. I lack the heart to interrupt sweet conversations and call fellow adults out for talking when it is time to be quiet. Truth be told, I lack the courage to do what is mine to do.

Have you ever felt that way? Have you ever been afraid to do the one thing you can plainly see has your name written all over it? Is it easier to keep going through the motions and doing whatever you have been doing for so long? Have you valued the input of those who surround you for so long that you can no longer distinguish fact from opinion, God's will for you from man's? Have you gotten so good at doing anything else that you think you could never turn back now?

I don't know your story. I just know your God.

This world has become so loud and fast-paced that hearing the Lord's still, small voice can be near impossible to do, especially if we have fallen prey to the enemy's ploys. We as mothers are told our children must be signed up for every activity under the sun. We must live in the best school districts, buy all the name brand clothes, drive the shiny cars, have meticulously manicured lawns, Pinterest-worthy school projects, cabinets filled with organic foods, and, if we find time, we should definitely check the church box on Sundays. And we need to do all that looking really cute, with bodies revealing no signs whatsoever of having ever born those little trophy children we are toting on our hips and bowing our very lives down to - but that's another topic for another day.

I've been a school teacher for several years now. Children are my favorite people on the planet. I believe we can gauge the state of our world by the condition of our children. They are the ultimate litmus test, if you ask me. In 2018, in many respects, things aren't looking so pretty. There is absolutely nothing more heartbreaking than seeing the effect a broken home - and I'm not necessarily talking divorce here because I know some stellar single parents - can have on a child. Love really does cover over a multitude of things. More love - not more fancy clothes and toys - and more time are what children crave, what makes all the difference in little lives. What happens at home pours over into what happens at school and what happens at school pours over into what happens in that child's adult life.

                                           

Hear me loud and clear: perfection is not required. My kids' folders often go unsigned, too, and I've forgotten snack day and the extra change of clothes more times than I'll ever admit. There have been all too many seasons in this house that have poured over into the daily performance of my child at school, too. It happens. That's not what I am saying. To look into sad, scared, defeated eyes daily and to see labels placed on children that would never be there if there were an adult to invest in them, to love and spend time with them, has been devastating. It is not at all uncommon to watch kids in the formative years of school lose ground academically they will never regain as a result of trauma in their lives. Love and security can change everything. Ask any teacher you know. I assure you they will tell you the same thing.

So, what's up with that?

I can only share what I've seen, what I have come to believe, what has ultimately caused me to leave the classroom for the ministry. I wanted so badly to be a teacher.  So many of my precious friends live and breathe what it takes to be an effective, successful teacher and they know it in the marrow of their bones.  I loved teaching, gave it everything, poured into every kid that crossed my path, and have no regrets at all.

I just never really stopped feeling a little like a fraud.

Those who have "always known they were meant to teach" are organized and innovative, creative and nurturing, well-versed in pedagogy and fluent in all the foreign terms that come with it. They are working night and day to perform lessons they have written, edited, acted out, and produced based on the unique needs of the kids sitting in front of them and the standards they are made to reach. With zero hesitation, they will shield your children's bodies with their own, then question why that would be considered sacrificial. It's who they are.

Heroes - every one of them - pouring themselves into a near thankless job for kids with limitless potential. I've never loved anything more than I loved being among them and looking into the eyes of the kids they are changing the whole wide world for every day. For many children, school truly is the happiest place they go, the only place they are guaranteed to be safe and to be fed full meals. School is the setting of their happiest, most memorable childhood moments. The ones who should be protecting so many of them are not or cannot. So many more than you realize are denied the privilege of playgrounds, zoos, and libraries. School is their Disney World. It's not a myth from the media. I see their faces in my mind and their names are on my lips all the time.

It is absolutely true that what happens at home pours over into what happens at school and what happens at school pours over into what happens in that child's adult life. But we are missing something - the most important thing. What happens at church - or doesn't - pours over into what happens at home and sets that whole course. That's right. Faith - or the lack thereof - trickles down and changes every area of a child's life it touches.  It just does. I know that is not politically correct. I know that's enough to make a hardworking, unbelieving mama madder than a wet hornet, as my grandfather used to say. Y'all, it's still true.

"Yet I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart. I have overcome the world." 
John 16:33

A mama doesn't have to believe in Jesus to know what He was saying here is true. We all have tribulations - every last one of us. No one is exempt. Only Christ has overcome the world. I'll say it again. Only Christ has overcome the world. I've looked the world over in my lifetime and I have not found a single person who does not know the Lord that has lasting peace. They might have a lot of stuff or a happy attitude or be crazy strong through all kinds of trials - but deep, lasting peace that surpasses all understanding? An unwavering, solid peace that is only refined in the fires of life, not burned away? You cannot find that ANYWHERE else.

I know because I have looked.

I know because I wanted there to be. I wanted an easier, more accessible way. I wanted to have my Emily-chosen career and my God-chosen calling, too. I wanted to please man and to please God. I wanted to serve both God and money. I wanted to walk with one foot in the world and one in the Kingdom and it couldn't be done. I was undone. 

I have known what I have known for a long time. I wanted to find some way to make my pain go away in the face of death all those years ago, but there was no relief, no hope at all apart from him. I wanted to get mad and turn my back, go my own way and walk away from that God who didn't behave the way I wanted Him to, did the very opposite of what I thought He should have done. Darkness hit me in the face. Then, as only God can do, He called me out of that darkness into glorious light. He didn't stop there. He gave me a story no man could deny and the gifts to share it, for His glory and the good of the ones who are fumbling in that same darkness and begging to see a light, to find a way out. Christ alone called me out a long time ago. He made me a teacher - a teacher of the living, active Word of God. It wasn't my plan. It wasn't on my agenda. It was scary. It thrust this dark-dweller into a light that made me squirm and I refused to go.

Until I looked in those sad eyes, day after day, month after month, year after year, until finally, through an intense set of events orchestrated by God Himself, I finally knew. Everyone around me did, too. I wasn't serving these kids by staying at all. I was serving my ego, my plan, working myself sick and always feeling as if I had come up short somehow. I was actually setting a really terrible example for those sweet ones in the process.  If I'd spend my last breath encouraging children to be all they were created to be, if I'd go toe-to-toe with anyone who overlooked the potential in one of the least of these - how could I deny my own? I was not being selfless; I was being selfish. My actions were speaking louder than my words and when you are surrounded by as many impressionable, watching-closely-children as I am, that will keep you awake at night. 

We may not understand God's ways and they may - probably will - seem foolish to man, but when we are walking with the Creator of All and living in His Word, we see the Truth, and we find our place. That trickles down and changes every part of us and everything and everyone we touch.

I ask you again. Have you ever felt that way? Have you ever been afraid to do the one thing you can plainly see has your name written all over it? Is it easier to keep going through the motions and doing whatever you have been doing for so long? Have you valued the input of those who surround you for so long that you can no longer distinguish fact from opinion, God's will for you from man's? Have you gotten so good at doing anything else that you think you could never turn back now?

I don't know your story. I just know your God. And I know every child in America needs your God. More than we need better test scores or curriculum or fun activities, we need Jesus. Those children grow up to be adults. And every adult in America needs your God, too. They are fumbling in darkness, desperately seeking a way out, looking in all the wrong places for the love that can only be found our Savior.

"You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all int he house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works, and give glory to your Father who is in heaven."
Matthew 5:14-16

Your story is for His glory. If you know Him, are you shining the light He's given you to shine before all men? We all play an integral part in this body of believers. Are you doing the work He's given you to do and doing it with all your heart?

"Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ."
Colossians 3:23-24

Isn't that what we are all working for? An inheritance? Whatever you do, whether you are a stay-at-home-mom to innocent little ones, an office manager where folks cross your path every day, a cashier greeting brothers and sisters at a drive-thru window, an auto worker pouring out every ounce of physical strength you have among others doing the same, a nurse rocking babies attached to wires when parents cannot, a custodian keeping your workplace running like a well-oiled machine, or a CEO with unlimited influence - WHATEVER you do, work at it as if you were working for the Lord. Maybe you are working hard, harder than you ever have and coming up short again and again. Maybe you need to find rest before your Maker and ask Him what He would have you do.  He knows. He created each of uniquely, every last one of of us intended to play integral roles in the overarching story of God's glory. 

Are you playing yours?

"Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit, and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good."
1 Corinthians 12:4-7

Me? I'm finally playing my role. And guess what? I'm keeping my teacher voice, too.


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