To quote one of our current prophetic voices, “Back to reality, woah there goes gravity…”
The return to school post-Easter weekend – they gave us Friday and Monday off – has been challenging on multiple levels. First, because we have been doing our yearly standardized testing all week. So, we only have 30 minutes of regular class time with the students, and by the time they have done all that testing their brains are fried. A fried brain can rarely be a thinking brain.
Also, this time of year the workload in every class gets weighty. So, in my class for this week due to the chaos of everything else our Middle Schoolers are dealing with, I chose to give my class time to work on their other work while we watch “Finding Dory.” I must say, the narrative in the film is solid stuff. Different enough from “Finding Nemo,” while still holding it in tension by having Nemo and Marlin play alongside Dory as she searches for life and becomes the story of the film.
Being a “Bible Teacher” is a blessing and I do not take it for granted. I think this week I wanted my students to learn that taking a moment to rest from the chaos of a crazy week is a helpful practice. So, though I did not make them interpret the text this week, I believe that they may learn something more important about the way we function in the world and hopefully, they will start learn a healthy rhythm of rest and work.
Next week, I will be back to trying to control a mass of insurrectionist, yet sweet, middle schoolers. This task is hilariously mind boggling. I did not study education in college, I studied Theology. So, some days I still feel like I am picking up information that should have been, and I am sure is, foundational for teaching. For example, I came into this job in August of 2015 confusing classroom management for discipline.
Therefore, this time last year, I was about to lose my mind. I had reached the point where I did not know what else I could do. There were a couple classes I knew that were hardly learning anything at all. This year, I do not feel that same angst. I am not about to lose my mind, though there are hard days. Last year, I looked like this image June during the month of April:
Now I look more like this (Can we agree that Ross was by far the worst character on FRIENDS?):
The reality is that I know how lucky I am to 1) have a job, 2) genuinely enjoy my job, and 3) even remotely use my degree.
I spent 6 months following undergrad working at one of those places where they lock you in a room, and you solve puzzles and riddles to escape the room. I worked hard, but I did not necessarily feel “called” to that work.
What is a “calling” anyway? I talk and think about this idea constantly. I certainly feel a calling to the work I am doing. I know that influencing the next generation has the potential to be redemptive work. I know that teaching our young people to think broadly and lovingly is important. In my undergraduate work in Theology, we would talk about “God’s calling on our lives.” I think those conversations were important, but I do not think they were final.
The finality of a “calling” scares the rational side of my brain. It makes me feel claustrophobic or something. I get this antsy feeling in my skin. This anxious weight of the rest of my life begins to plague me. What is it about the future that is so scary… oh right, I have no idea what will happen! Being a control freak in recovery, this is the absolute worst. I hate not knowing. What irks me is that my “calling” is supposed to solve this problem. It is where I am supposed to spend my life, at least that is how I always heard it. I have an equal amount of disdain for the infinite possibilities as I do for the singularity of a calling.
So, as I consider the work I have done this week of allowing my middle school students a breath of fresh air within their sea of chaos, I remember that a calling – like marriage – is not nearly as “destiny” driven as it is choice driven. What I mean is this, I do not think my wife is “the one” for me in some transcendental way. I believe she is “The One” for me because every day we wake up and choose to continue practicing life together. We continually choose grace over small-mindedness, bravery over fear, and love over disillusionment. So, Amy is my one and I am hers because we make the conscious choice to live that way.
Similarly, I feel called to my job, not because it is the only job I will ever do, but because I find that helping young boys and girls find love for self, neighbor, and God to be extremely important. Thus, each day I choose to be my best and try to (stealing this quote from Fred Craddock), “enroll them in the story.” If you do not know who Fred Craddock is (unless you are theology nerd you won’t), I would recommend reading some of his stuff. It is all about preaching, but really it is about using your gifts in tangible ways.
Wherever you are. Whatever you are doing. Treat that work as though you are called to it because maybe you are.
Grace and Peace,