Reflections on things that matter.
It is not as easy as I once believed to teach God’s word with integrity. What I mean by that is that telling people the “right thing to believe” about God and the “right thing to do” with their faith is only as powerful as the teacher’s decision to live the very thing he or she is teaching, and sometimes that “living” part is as hard as one of the labors of Hercules. I am a Bible teacher. That means that I get up in front of teenagers every single day and proclaim the word of God, affirming that it is true. What I did not count on is having to teach about the exact thing I am having trouble believing..
For the past two weeks, my freshmen and I have been learning all about God’s providence. I say “my freshmen and I” because I may be the one learning the most here. I have been teaching them what the Bible says about God, and how he works all things together for the good of those who love Him, according to Romans 8:28. We have referenced such paragons of faith as Abraham, who “without wavering in faith” laid hold of the promise God gave to him (Romans 4:20). We talked about the Psalms of David, and how they were evidence that David trusted God’s providence even in the midst of his exile and persecution at the hand of King Saul (Psalm 57). We’ve even talked about Joseph, who has one of the most compelling stories of providence in the Bible, having God work even his collective 13 year slavery and imprisonment for a much greater, much more glorious end (Genesis 41). I have been using all of these stories, and even some of my own testimony to teach my students that God is trustworthy and that His providence is a sure thing.
At the very same time, I am discovering a whole host of trust issues I personally have with God. I find it bitterly ironic that I am teaching my students to trust in God’s ultimate plan when I have literally hundreds of pages in my private journal that say something to the effect of “God, what on earth are you doing to my life and how can I trust you to work this out for my good?” This is what I mean by the difficulty of teaching the word with integrity. Some days I feel like what I’m teaching isn’t true, but I dare not stand in front fo 45 impressionable 14-year-olds and tell them that God may not come through for them. All the while, the fear that often plagues me is that God will not come through for me (at the moment, there are several things in my life that I feel like He has not worked out for my good. I feel like every time I ask God to help me deal with some major difficulty, He just lets another difficulty fall directly on top of the existing one. That is a difficult feeling to swallow, let alone teach past).
Does this mean that I am lying to my kids when I tell them to trust God? The answer I am currently learning is “no”. Teaching God’s word doesn’t mean that I have a perfect understanding of it, and there is a difference between the sum of all of my negative feelings and the choice I have to submit to what God’s word actually says. I feel like I can’t trust God because of certain circumstances in my current life, but what I acknowledge about those feelings does not have to contradict what I know to be true of God. Yesterday I came face to face with just how disappointed, hurt, and distrustful I felt, but at the end of it, what God used to bring me peace was the thought “maybe I’ll understand it someday.” The peace in that statement is that what I feel right now isn’t permanent. In the midst of my frustration, I can choose to live in the pain of the moment or to look to the hope of the future, to a time to come when I will see God’s providence for what it is.
Interestingly enough, I wouldn’t have made it to that conclusion about my current issues if not for the fact that I have been speaking this very thing out of my mouth for 2 weeks. I thought I believed all of this before I started teaching, but life started kicking me in the face again, almost as if the universe were heckling me, screaming at me “do you still believe it now, you pathetically wide-eyed idealistic little girl?” But the challenge is really “do you still trust me, dear heart?” And like a child who has just been administered a shot, I shake my head and fret and cry because it hurts, but in reality, I do still believe I am safe with the Parent who brought me here.
It seems that the teacher has become the student. I may have a MA in Theological Studies, but the Master is still teaching me what walking with Him looks like, and sometimes it’s not pretty. But it is still worth it.