(Editor's Note: This blog was posted first Here at the 'Teachers of Vision' website.)
The word trust can be used as both a verb and a noun, but amazingly, in either form, Webster lists its main definition as “firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something.” Not just belief, but “firm belief.”
With this in mind, I would venture to guess that, as Christian educators, most of us would say we trust God and we place our trust in Him. I would even go so far as to say that we build our careers around the “firm belief” that we are called by God to teach the students He assigns to us each year. We trust that He has a plan and a purpose for us and our students. Furthermore, we trust in God for the continued strength and passion to faithfully carry out our calling.
But let’s be honest. Sometimes, it is hard to trust God amid the daily classroom grind. Teaching is tough—really tough. And it seems to get tougher with each passing year. Between the demands of the curriculum, testing, planning, documenting, and meeting the individual learning needs of a classroom filled with distinctly diverse learners, it is easy to lose trust in our God-given call to teach.
It is equally difficult to trust that God’s plans and purposes are higher than ours. Maybe that’s why He has to firmly remind us of His “firm belief” in us as teachers on occasion. After all, He knows exactly which kids need us most, and He fully trusts in our abilities and giftings to perfectly meet the deepest needs of those kids. That is exactly why He entrusts them to us.
I reluctantly received one of His firm reminders around my 17th year into teaching. Truth be told, I almost refused to accept God’s much-needed lesson on trust. It all started after our district went through some major changes in leadership and organization. So, when the newly appointed principal called me into his office on one of the last days of school, I knew I was probably in for a change as well. But nothing prepared this secondary English teacher for a transfer to a nearby elementary school.
I handled the initial discussion well. With a smile on my face and respect in my tone, I reminded the new principal that I was only certified to teach language arts in grades 7 through 12.
He opened my file with a confused look and said, “No, according to your teaching license, you were certified a few years back to teach classes from Kindergarten through 12th grade. And we want you to continue the current reading program you are teaching at the elementary level.”
Then, it hit me. He was right.
Our state had offered its teachers an experimental, Saturday-based staff-development course a few years back as a route for license recertification. At the time, it seemed judicious to forfeit several Saturdays spread throughout the school year rather than give up my entire summer vacation. I had forgotten that it also expanded my certification to include all grade levels.
At that point, all I could do was nod my head and tell the new principal that I would be glad to teach for our district at the elementary school.
But there was no gladness in my heart. None whatsoever.
I left the meeting, went straight to my empty classroom, and called my husband. I relayed the conversation and informed him that I would be looking elsewhere for a teaching position for the next year. Always my calm, steady rock, he let me vent and then told me to trust God and pray about it before I made any rash decisions.
Dissatisfied with his response, I called my sister, a kindergarten teacher in a neighboring state. I told her my sad tale, ending with my insistence that I was not an elementary teacher at all, so it was most definitely time to seek a new job in another district. Unbelievably, she said the exact thing my husband had said. She added that I needed to trust God to know what was best and remarked jokingly, “Leave the Dark Side, Luke. Come over to the elementary side; the Force will be with you.”
I was not amused.
After our call, I walked down the hall to tell one of the other English teachers, a dear Christian friend, exactly what had transpired in my talk with the principal. She gave me the same response as my husband and my sister. Same words, same admonition. Followed by my same determination to quit.
But, as I was leaving her room, my precious friend said something that made me stop and ponder. “Joy, what if this is God’s very best gift? What if He has something so great planned for you that you cannot imagine? What if this ends up being your very best assignment with the best colleagues and the best students of your career? Do you really want to miss out on what God has planned for you—or miss out on what He has planned for those kids that need you and are waiting on you? Why not trust Him in this move?”
At this point, every fellow Christian teacher in the world can guess exactly how the script went from here on out. I sat down, had a good cry, repented of my lack of trust, cleaned out my room, and carted my things right on over to the elementary school a few blocks away.
And for the next six years (actually, the final years of my career), I enjoyed teaching more than all the other 17 years combined. It was so much fun!
Now, don’t get me wrong. It was hard work, much harder than anything I had done before. It required more planning, more physical exertion, and much more stretching and growing as a teacher. But I became a learner again, right alongside my students.
I also became more excited about teaching than ever before, and I did things I had never dreamed I would do. My students and I started (and completed) some of the most creative learning projects I had ever experienced.
On top of that, God had moved me kicking, screaming, and whining to a place filled with other Christian teachers who had a unified vision. We were all in one accord, working for one goal: to give God and our kids our very best.
I made some of the deepest and truest friendships of my teaching career at that elementary school. Those women challenged me to be a better teacher and a better Christ-follower. They also encouraged me to try new things and helped me adapt my teaching skills and styles to fit the elementary setting. Best of all, we prayed together while I worked there, and we still do all these years after my retirement.
Even now, as I sit and write these words, I cannot imagine what my life would be like without those last six years of my career.
What blessings I would have missed! What friendships! What absolute joy!
So, yes, this veteran English teacher knows beyond a doubt that trusting God is often hard. But, trusting God is also worth it. Especially when, as Christian educators, our “firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something” can be placed fully in the only One who knows the end from the beginning, the One whose plans for us and the students entrusted to us are so much better and higher than anything we could ever imagine.
Truthfully, as Christian educators, putting our trust in God is the only way we can do what we are called to do while firmly believing that our efforts will reap endless, life-changing rewards.
(Joy Lucius, a retired public school teacher, spent 22 years in the classroom teaching creative writing. She is an accomplished journalist and novelist as well, writing for the American Family Association and publishing her latest young adult book Priceless Pennies: Rose and Odette - Unknown Children of the Holocaust.)