A few weeks ago, I wrote about two words that have been helping me make a fresh start in the school year. “Good enough,” has been my guiding mantra. I didn’t write it at the time, but there’s been another one nudging me in the right direction.
Lately, my thoughts have been turning back to these wise words. They were given to me by my pastor Paul Patterson at the end of summer. I had asked him for guidance on how to avoid the over-emotional bent that I am prone to. His words seem so obvious, yet I’ve been finding them just as orienting as the words “good enough”.
“Be rational,” he said. His words were a caution against letting my anxieties taking over the reins. We talked for some time and I gained a new perspective. I can’t explain it, but these two words were like a light switch, bringing balance to my thoughts and actions. Maybe my feelings had become a bit like spoiled children, demanding attention from me the indulgent parent. “Good enough” and “Be rational” have been my two mantras. Teaching is never easy, but I’ve felt more balanced and happier.
I’ll give you an example of how it works. Coming up with lesson plans every day can be a daunting task, and in the past, it has often left me feeling swamped and drained. But that’s the feeling end of things, and focusing my attention there doesn’t exactly lead anywhere profitable. In fact, it makes my world smaller, and I know God isn’t in the business of creating cramped worlds. So instead, the words “be rational” have invited me to think of the way things really are, in a bountiful universe filled with God’s blessings.
So I’ve begun to think that the lessons already exist out there, and God the creative one is brimming over with ideas for the students. So I take a breath, say a prayer, crack open the books and wait to see what sparks come. This way has led me to be more relaxed and trusting that God has my back. In fact, God is the Teacher behind the teacher. I’m often surprised that despite myself, something always falls into place. Even when a lesson falls flat, I can remember to “be rational” (as opposed to feeling like a schmuck!), and remember that tomorrow is a new day to try again.
Another application of these words is how I think about my students. Some of these precious kids come with lives already so burdened by problems beyond their control. If I’m being guided by emotions, my shoulders crack as I worry and try to carry the load on my own. Instead, it has helped me immeasurably to think of them first and foremost as God’s children. I pray for many of them every day, saying, “Take care of your dear child”, placing them before the God whom scripture says loved us all even when we were being formed in the womb. My mom also prays for them as do my friends at church.
Come to think of it, that’s how God remembers me too. The other night as I was falling asleep, worried about a recurrent problem, I suddenly heard the voice of my dear neighbor, “Tante Bargen”, who was like my second mom growing up. I heard her caring voice as she said my name, and my crusty heart melted as I remembered that I was immeasurably loved and that as Julian of Norwich said, “All will be well”. Thinking about it even now draws tears to my eyes. I know God used her to restore me to myself.
So thanks Paul for the wise words this August. I’m certainly not applying them without flaw, but then I remember the other two words, “Good enough,” and I’m good to go.
“God didn’t give us a spirit that is timid but one that is powerful, loving, and self-controlled.” 2 Timothy 1:7
“Be alert and of sober mind.” 1 Peter 5:8