Teacher Seeking Approval

It was the middle of a Tuesday and I found myself picking the date for an announced observation for the following week. We settled on December 12th at 8:45 am. That score will play a big part in determining my LOE score that will tell, at a quick, convenient glance, what kind of teacher I am. It’s hard not to absorb identity from that number. It feels like approval or disapproval. It feels like someone has pronounced judgement on my worth as a teacher.

Sometimes, in the midst of the hurry, the pressures, and worries of this time in the semester, I forget that those things are not the sum of my life, or even the sum of my present circumstances. I have to stop and remind myself that this person’s approval may be pressing, that activity may be urgent, this work may be threatening to consume my time, but that is not all of my reality. The tyranny of the urgent will always be there, but there is always more. Everything in life- the good, the bad, and the in-between (including scores and observations, and human approval, praise, and judgement… and life outside of teaching) – all those things shape me, but they have no say in who I am now and what I have for eternity. God has that say:

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do… Eph. 2:4-10

According to Ephesians 2, because Jesus Christ, fully God and fully man, came and brought me salvation by dying for my sin and rising again, this is my reality: I am loved by God with great love. I am God’s own handiwork, so I belong to him. I am created in Christ for good works, so the work is his, not mine. My future is not uncertain because God has prepared it in advance. God desires to show me the incomparable riches of his grace. He shows me great kindness in Christ. He gave me true life when I was dead in my own works and my own heart of hatred and defiance against him. As Paul tells the Ephesians to remember, I also remember that I was once without hope and without God in this world. I almost can’t bring myself to say those terrible, soul-shaking words aloud: without God in this world.

I need to remember that, so that I can remember this: because of God’s great gift – one I did nothing to deserve- I have received approval by the One from whom it matters most. And I am no longer without God in this world… or in eternity to come.

So, whatever comes today or the tomorrows that follow, as believers I hope this will always be among the first of our thoughts: I am no longer without God in this world. And may we remember all that that truth entails.

Whatever is pressing or clamoring for attention, he always has been, and always will be more. His is the approval that matters most, so that we can live in true joy and seek to please him as we walk in all the good works – at school and elsewhere- he has planned for us to do.

Prayer:

“I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. Eph. 3:16-21

Sunday Song: Peace and Rest

One of the biggest mercies in a believer’s life is that whatever trial or question arises, the answer is always Christ and his invitation to “come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” By yoking with him, we find rest for our souls. (Matthew 11)

Peace, Perfect Peace by Edward H. Bickersteth, Jr. 1875

  1. Peace, perfect peace, in this dark world of sin?
    The blood of Jesus whispers peace within.

  2. Peace, perfect peace, by thronging duties pressed?
    To do the will of Jesus, this is rest.

  3. Peace, perfect peace, with sorrows surging round?
    On Jesus’ bosom naught but calm is found.

  4. Peace, perfect peace, ’mid suffering’s sharpest throes?
    The sympathy of Jesus breathes repose.

  5. Peace, perfect peace, with loved ones far away?
    In Jesus’ keeping we are safe, and they.

  6. Peace, perfect peace, our future all unknown?
    Jesus we know, and He is on the throne.

  7. Peace, perfect peace, death shad’wing us and ours?
    Jesus has vanquished death and all its pow’rs.

  8. It is enough: earth’s struggles soon shall cease,
    And Jesus calls us to Heav’n’s perfect peace.

Isaiah 26:3 You keep him in perfect peace
    whose mind is stayed on you,
    because he trusts in you.

John 14:27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.

Thanksgiving Psalm

Come, let us sing for joy to the LORD;

let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation.

Let us come before him with thanksgiving

and extol him with music and song.

For the LORD is the great God,

the great King above all gods.

In his hand are the depths of the earth,

and the mountain peaks belong to him.

The sea is his, for he made it,

and his hands formed the dry land.

Come, let us bow down in worship,

let us kneel before the LORD our Maker;

for he is our God

and we are the people of his pasture,

the flock under his care.

Psalm 95

Happy Thanksgiving!

Saturday Song: He Giveth More Grace

“How was your week?”

“It was very good. Long. I’m quite tired.”

There is always a hidden story behind polite conversation. And Instagram. I’m guilty of that this week. How was my Friday? Let me show you!

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#teacherlife #ihavethebeststudents #ajoyfulclassroomisasafeclassroom

And it’s true. I love my student kiddos. And they love their teacher. And I’m so thankful for them.

But the truth is, this year is hard in ways that years in the past haven’t been. The truth is, I’m exhausted and discouraged.

But the truth is, God is gracious, as he always has been.

So, how was the other side of my Friday?

Thursday I came home from school around 6. After cooking dinner, I had no energy left to translate more documents, finish Friday’s PowerPoints, grade the growing mound of student work, or do anything else for that matter. So I went to sleep. At 7:30. Even I knew that was a mistake, but I couldn’t help it. I simply couldn’t work any more.

So I was awake from 11:30 p.m.-2 a.m. I tried to go back to sleep, but the bad dreams kept interrupting me. The emotional stress of our grade level meetings manifested in the gripping fear that at 1 am one of my teacher friends was overdosing. One of the little first graders from hall duty was being harmed. Many other false, oppressive fears of the early morning hours met with real-life difficulties and their anxieties. And I simply couldn’t sleep any more.

So, I did the only thing I could: practice the presence of God in the face of my exhaustion, stress, and fears.

Last Saturday, I heard this song (Psalm 91 Eagles’ Wings) by Shane and Shane for the first time. It was a gift of God that began to quiet my spirit early Friday morning.

So I read the words of that song in the other songs that sound melodious, unfailing truth:

Psalm 91 —

Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High
    will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress,
    my God, in whom I trust.”…

He will cover you with his feathers,
    and under his wings you will find refuge;
    his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
You will not fear the terror of night…

“Because he loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him;
    I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.
He will call on me, and I will answer him;
    I will be with him in trouble,
    I will deliver him and honor him.
With long life I will satisfy him
    and show him my salvation.”

Psalm 37 —

Trust in the Lord and do good;
    dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.
Take delight in the Lord,
    and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Commit your way to the Lord;
    trust in him and he will do this:
He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn,
    your vindication like the noonday sun.

Be still before the Lord
and wait patiently for him…

The salvation of the righteous comes from the Lord;
  he is their stronghold in time of trouble.
     The Lord helps them and delivers them;
             he delivers them from the wicked and saves them,
             because they take refuge in him.

Isaiah 40 —

Do you not know?
    Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
    the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
    and his understanding no one can fathom.
He gives strength to the weary
    and increases the power of the weak.
Even youths grow tired and weary,
    and young men stumble and fall;
but those who hope in the Lord
    will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
    they will run and not grow weary,
    they will walk and not be faint.

 

It’s a miracle from the Holy Spirit that calms fears and worries in my heart — even at 2 a.m. — and let’s me sleep again. Not to dreams of despair, but to dreams of hope and waking to laughter. What a grace.

He giveth more grace when the burdens grow greater,
He sendeth more strength when the labors increase;
To added afflictions He addeth His mercy,
To multiplied trials, His multiplied peace.

When we have exhausted our store of endurance,
When our strength has failed ere the day is half done,
When we reach the end of our hoarded resources
Our Father’s full giving is only begun.

Fear not that thy need shall exceed His provision,
Our God ever yearns His resources to share;
Lean hard on the arm everlasting, availing;
The Father both thee and thy load will upbear.

His love has no limits, His grace has no measure,
His power no boundary known unto men;
For out of His infinite riches in Jesus
He giveth, and giveth, and giveth again. — Annie J. Flint