Friday, 27 July 2018

To the Teacher Struggling to Get Through Classroom Setup...

Dear teacher,

I have a confession to make. Do you see this classroom in the background of my blog post header, my 2016-2017 classroom? At one point, I didn't know if I was going to get through with setting it up. One day during classroom setup, I found myself sitting on the floor, slumped against the cabinets, breathing deeply and choking back tears. Not because the work was overwhelming. On the contrary - that was the one year I hadn't had to move classrooms, so a lot of my bulletin boards and posters were still set up from the previous year. Yet I was still struggling to get through my classroom setup because I couldn't seem to focus. I was going through an extremely difficult time in my personal life and that day in particular was probably one of the hardest days yet.

I remember wondering how I could possibly finish what I had to do over the next few days when the dark cloud of my current circumstances seemed to loom over me at every turn. Even the bright and happy colors of my classroom couldn't change the overwhelming feelings that I felt.

I'm sharing this not for pity, but to let you know that you are not alone. We are teachers, but we are first and foremost human beings. We have our struggles, things we go through in our personal lives, and we bravely shut the door and push them aside as we teach our kids each day. But during the summer, with more time on our hands, we often have to face these struggles head on. And that may mean that when the time comes to go back to school and start setting up, we still don't feel ready.

That day during my classroom setup occurred just a few months after I made the most important decision of my life - to serve God wholeheartedly. (You can read more about that decision here and here.) 2016 had been a difficult year for me, one that I knew I wouldn't be able to get through without the Lord. And two years later, I can say that I was definitely right about that. But in that moment, while slumping against my cabinets, I wasn't even sure if God could help me. I wasn't sure about anything, especially about how I was going to make it through the next few days. But in the midst of my struggles, I learned something important.

God's grace is sufficient. In 2 Corinthians 12, Paul writes about a "thorn in his flesh" (v. 7) - not an actual thorn but some kind of ailment or weakness that he was struggling with. He goes on to say, "Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong." (2 Corinthians 12:8-10). Oftentimes, we wish, just as Paul did, that whatever difficulties we are facing would just go away. But God has taught me that our difficulties, limitations, trials, and failures are an opportunity for Him to show His power in our lives. When we are weak, He is strong.

There's a quote by author Wendy Mass that says, "Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about." I don't know what you may be going through right now, personally or professionally. But I do know that on our most difficult days, God's grace is sufficient to carry us through. As you return to your classroom and begin setting up, I want you to know that it's okay to not be okay. It's okay if you find yourself on the floor, like me, holding back tears. And it's okay if you let them all out. It's okay to not know when you're going to feel okay again. In our darkest days, God's light shines brightest; the darkness is not dark to Him (Psalm 139:12). He is so much bigger than our current circumstances and nothing will ever be able to separate us from His unending love (Romans 8:39).

If you are reading this and feel led to reach out, feel free to comment, email me, or message me on my Instagram account. I would be honored to offer a listening ear and pray for you.