For the past couple of months I’ve been subbing for a Kindergarten class at my kids’ elementary school. When the opportunity to finish out the year was made available to me I was very conflicted about whether or not I could balance the demands of teaching with the demands of our home and my husband’s ministry. The funny thing is that I was struggling to make the decision without realizing that the decision had already been made for me. I was like a frog in a pot boiled without ever feeling the rising heat. I’m so glad God led me so gently into this new adventure. Even so, it has not been an easy task. My little friends–21 of them–can be quite a handful. By the time we get to recess, when they crowd around wanting hugs and telling me all their little news, I often have to ask them to give me a little break from talking. I’ll say, “Mrs. B just needs some space.”
One day I was feeling more like Cruella DeVil than Marry Poppins and I must have looked it. One of the other teachers looked at me and said, “You’re not shiny any more, Mrs. B.” Honestly, I didn’t disagree. I’m not a shiny new penny any more. I’m a 39 year old working mother of two who, at middle age, has followed her husband down a completely new path into full time ministry! I mean, it’s like we’re kids fresh out of college just starting out. Many of my colleagues are nearly ten years younger than me. Sometimes I have to stop and laugh just so I don’t cry. This is not what I had planned!
On top of that, working with children will break a person’s heart. I taught music for ten years, so I’m not completely green, but the dynamic of being a classroom teacher is completely new to me. Gone are the surface relationships built with students in weekly thirty minute music classes. Now I have one little group of ducklings that are all my own. We’re together all day every day. It is a whole new world! I take care of their every need during the school day, and I worry about them when I’m not there. Sometimes there is a problem that I just can’t fix for them and it breaks my heart. If there was ever a profession that could wear the shine off of a person, education would be it. Some children have needs that are difficult to accommodate within the classroom setting. Some come to school still reeling from the affects of a something that happened at home. Some have lost parents. Some have been abandoned. Some don’t even speak English, so how on Earth are you supposed to reach them? It wears a person down, and stretches you thin. It can cause you to become frustrated and disillusioned. That will definitely dim your shine.
When I started with this class I was fresh and rested and new. I was excited about this new adventure. I was organized, laying out my clothes and packing my lunch the night before. My lesson plans were neat and tidy. No scratch outs allowed. As time wore on, though, I became less organized, more tired, frazzled, and definitely less shiny. I started to feel so small compared to the fallen-ness around me. Ecclesiastes came to mind once again, “all is meaningless.” (I’ve really got to move on from Ecclesiastes!) My friend’s words made me kind of sad. If I wasn’t shiny anymore, did that mean that I was no longer representing Jesus the way I should? How can we ever hope to maintain that spiritual light within our hearts when we have to live in this fallen world?
The answer? We keep our eyes on Jesus. I’d love to tell you that I read my Bible faithfully every single morning, but here lately, I just want ten more minutes of sleep. On the days when I stick to the plan and spend time with the Lord before the day starts, things are significantly different. I find that I can bear the load of responsibility for these young ones with the grace and dignity that I long to show the world. That character that I so eagerly desire God to complete in me is more evident on the days when I walk closely with Him. Taking each step in His power is the only way to genuinely shine like a light in the darkness of this world, especially when your mission field leads you to places where that darkness is more evident than others.
That struggle to shine comes in the hardest moments, but there are also moments of happiness and delight with my kinder-friends. We laugh and joke. We sing and play. When I am tired and struggling, they give me hugs and encouragement. If my temper gets the best of me, my apologies are met with kindness and mercy. For the most part parents and teachers are helpful and supportive. There are moments that are blessed and rewarding, and they far outweigh the moments of frustration. Somewhere within it all, I pray that my life will have a lasting affect that will benefit God’s kingdom. My hope is that each child that is in my care will see kindness and will follow that example as they grow.
I think the point that I’m trying to make is this: it’s hard to stay shiny, y’all. In the end, I don’t think we’re really supposed to, at least not in the worldly sense. What is the point of an all terrain vehicle that never leaves the pavement, am I right? As Christians we are called to leave the beaten path in order to seek out those that the Lord would call unto His self through us. The ministry of reconciliation isn’t a holy desk job. We’re going to get some bumps and scratches if we’re forging new territory so that God’s grace can enter. We trade worldly shine for heavenly light. A shiny penny is one that has never circulated. If so, then what is it’s purpose? That is the true definition of “meaningless.” I want my life to have meaning, Godly meaning. I don’t want to sit on the sidelines afraid to frown under the strain of hard work because I might get wrinkles! Nope. I want to live big and laugh hard. When I finally meet the Lord face to face I’m not worried about being shiny, so long as I hear Him say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
I’d sign of with, “Stay shiny, my friends,” but that completely defeats our purpose. 😉
The “You In Me” tip in pictured above is available in my set of three “Modern” color pages in my Etsy store, here.