Happy Tuesday! Hope Monday was good to you…or at least all right. Mine was better than expected and given last week’s insanity, that was fine by me. Though it was of course far from perfect.
Perfect Monday anyone…? NO, really. It does happen…and if it happened for you, PLEASE share in the comments below! I think we would all benefit from the reminder that “perfect” days do happen. Even on Mondays!
That being said let me be super real with you. Is that okay?
I’ve been struggling lately with my attitude. My attitude about work, my attitude about my students, my attitude about Mexico…. (I currently live in Mexico in case you missed that.)
I’ve been negative and I’ve complained SO much more than I would ever like to admit. I dislike grading, I dislike extra time spent after school, I dislike taking work home and feeling as if it’s just never done. Ever. Honestly, teaching is not quite my niche (and that’s a nice way to put it.) It has been nothing short of challenging and humbling and often times exhausting and draining on a whole new level since I arrived in Mexico nearly two years ago.
Which brings us to last Tuesday.
I was so frustrated. Done. Fed up. I was ready to walk into that classroom and put them in their places. To make sure they knew that I was not there to be nice because nice had gotten us nowhere. They had taken advantage of my niceness and used it as an excuse to do whatever they wanted and to disregard pretty much everything in our classroom. They were being rude and rolling their eyes and consistently doing pretty much nothing and endlessly complaining about the little that they did do…I had run the speech over and over in my head that morning. I was grading their projects and getting angrier by the minute.
And then, I felt it.
Or heard it?
I’m not certain which came first.
The little nudge on my shoulder. The gentle whisper close to my ear.
And almost instantly, I was humbled. Broken even.
So much of what I was thinking and saying about them, the things that were frustrating me the most, were exactly things I had been doing. My attitude had honestly not been much better than theirs and I had been carelessly complaining to my friends and to God and I’m pretty sure rolling my eyes at the sky. Who was I to be frustrated with these kids?
Had God been any less kind to me? Had God come storming into my prayer time and laid down the law, given me a cold, harsh speech about how I needed to fix my attitude or else!? Had He pulled away from me or changed His demeanor with me? Was His grace and love any less available to me? Had His opinion of me changed because I kept complaining or rolling my eyes? Had He written me off because I had been lazy with my prayer and devotional time?
I didn’t have an answer.
Just tears welling up in my eyes.
Of course the answer was no.
He hadn’t. He hadn’t changed one bit. His love for me was exactly the same, perhaps even deeper than ever before. His grace was as available as ever, probably even more so as He could see my desperate need. He still thought the world of me and when I prayed (even complaining and rolling my eyes) He smiled, glad to meet me there. He had not been cold or harsh and the truth was that He was as warm and as near as always. The kindest.
So who on earth did I think I was?
I needed from Him exactly what these students needed from me.
His unconditional love.
His limitless grace.
His endless patience.
His genuine kindness.
His careful discipline.
His kind and gentle correction.
His ever available presence.
His security and His guidance.
How long had it been since I had prayed for these students? As a group? As individuals? When was the last time I had asked God to use me in that classroom, to represent Him to them each day? Had I ever looked at them as individuals created by God for His plans and His purposes and prayed that He would work and move in each life? How long had I been taking for granted this opportunity, this privilege, this responsibility He had placed in my hands?
So. Broken and humbled, and a little ashamed, I began to pray. First for my own heart. That God would change my perspective and my outlook and attitude. That I would remember what it was He had called me here to do. To help students in Mexico encounter Him, know Him, and learn His Word. That I would see them through His eyes and love them with His heart.
And then I prayed for them. That God would invade their hearts. That they would long to know Him more and to learn more of who He is. That He would change their attitudes and outlooks also and that He would help them to connect with me so that together we could better connect with Him.
And believe me, the change of attitude and perspective and approach was not as instant. I was still dreading walking into that class, and they were just as rough as ever. But, now I had a plan. There were steps to take, things to tell myself in the hardest moments. Individual chats with students who could sense that I was “off” that day. The chance to explain grace and to be real and authentic with them. To show them that yes, I am the Bible teacher, but also, I am human. I am a child of God, and I need all of them same things from Him always.
I think this is a lesson that we won’t ever stop learning.
That we are not any better off than the person we dislike the most. The person who brings the worst out of us and frustrates us beyond words.
We’re actually the same.
In need of someone who will love us anyways. In spite of all of the awful things that we are.
It’s hard to hear. Harder to accept. Even harder to change and break the cycle and learn to love those people. For me, those students. But, I can guarantee that someone in their prayer time is struggling to love me that way. That I am frustrating beyond words to someone (at least) on this planet.
But Jesus. He doesn’t struggle to love any of us. It’s easy for Him. A joy for Him. His complete delight.
So, instead of ranting and raving to Him today about all of the things that frustrate us, all of the people that frustrate us, let’s use our time to ask for heart change. Let’s tell Him how desperate we are for His grace and His love and that when we receive it, He would help us to extend it to others.
I had that class again yesterday. After a week apart.
They were different children. I’m not kidding.
They were quieter. They rolled their eyes less.
They asked if we could start class with prayer.
I was different. I was calmer. I was gentler. I heard them and I saw them. Each of them. I was looking to see how God was going to work. How He would respond to my prayers.
He was so evidently and obviously present in that classroom.
And all of a sudden, the people I showed up to teach about Jesus, are somehow teaching me about Him. And I was not annoyed or angry about that, I was humbled. I was thankful.
For grace exemplified in the way that He loves.
For this year that He has called us together to learn from each other and to understand more of who He is in the process.