With inconsiderable reluctance I turn my mind to the inevitable fact that school will reopen in just three days. I find myself counting the empty gaps in my timetable for the rest of the week – one and a half more free days – and drowning in insecure gladness. There is no more to anticipate, because there is nothing more beyond anticipation.
More than preparing ourselves mentally and physically to go back to school (no more late nights and late mornings, the headaches have become somewhat incessant these few days), it was also important to rethink the spiritual and emotional investment in this profession.
Two days ago I met a good friend and sister. Although we only meet once every half a year, she is someone who holds the mirror in front of you and forces you to look at yourself very truthfully. We did not dwell on the topic of teaching as there were other things on our minds, but not before she made me admit that I was doing “terrible” spiritually. No wonder there is no zest in my punch, no energy in my fight, no passion in my dance. “So why were we thinking about leaving again?”
It does not take a genius to realise that one’s passion for their job is dwindling, or that one may be leaving the service to a different grazing field; but it does take a bit more to pin point the root of the problem if one has lost their source of strength. And yet it definitely takes much more than that to compel such a person to go back to Christ and stop being stubbornly self-reliant.
The prospect of no longer being bound to a school or the profession, in other words, being able to do something different is actually very appealing. But upon more serious rethinking, I needed to admit a few hard truths to myself:
- The drive to think about leaving (whether it is further studies, another job or another school) is fuelled by a negative, not positive force.That frustrates me, because I know that these thoughts are not pleasing to God, and will not be pleasing to anyone. I want to get out of feeling tired and bogged down all the time; I wish to get out of the regular drone of the day-to-day because I am dissatisfied with how I presently lead my life. And while yes there is room for dissatisfaction, that should prompt further reflection not escapism. In other ways, these thoughts are fuelled by a desire to have it easier than I do now.
- I have been running on my own adrenaline for the past two years, and I cannot expect to do so without my God.Where are the prayers and the tears, where are the cries for mercy and help out to a loving Saviour, in the past two years? My neck has been stiff and my heart has been hardened. Two years! Sometimes the sheer fact that I am surviving in school right now, is by the grace of God Himself.
- If I do not right my relationship with God, there is not going to be any change.I will still be tired, unhappy, unable to deal with the challenges in the classroom, and wish to do less because I give myself the plain excuse that it is difficult to cope.
I am thankful for the prayer meeting cum teaching session last evening which I attended. While sharing what they have learned from their summer course in Regent College, I picked out a few hard truths that will hopefully plant itself firmly in my heart and drive the second semester coming up this year.
One topic that came up was this concept of “suffering” – and I broadened the definition of suffering to refer to anything we would consider “hardship”. Mum pointed out that we tend to imagine that a good, desirable life is one that is free of suffering and challenges and pain. And it struck me so hard because that seems to be precisely the starting point of my dissatisfaction.
This concept of ‘treating’ yourself to a movie, a good meal, or a luxurious holiday to make up for the tough circumstances you are facing, is precisely that. The innocent desire to pamper yourself once in a while, when taken too far, can be misconstrued into something that slowly nibbles at your drive and passion to give your all.
There have been many instances when I chose to gratify myself and justify it with the challenges faced at work. If I’m tired, it warrants a right to sleep or rest. If I’m sick of work, it is my right to do something that makes me happy. Yes, it is important to take care of our whole being, and make time for other activities and take a break. But perhaps I need to be clear where the line between excessive self-gratification and caring for the self is.
When we assume that life is suppose to be smooth-sailing, then we will also end up being unhappy when it gets tough. When work piles up and we feel that we have trudged through enough nonsense, we tell ourselves that we have reached the brim, the very top, and we will not take any more. There may be several redundant, unnecessary things on our to-do lists as dictated by the job scope laid out by our superiors, but as much as they annoy us, God says to submit to authority. If compiling a few more tables of data, or writing a few more reports is what my role calls for, then I should ask the Lord for strength and do it, unless I can help it.
That works for the classroom too. When the kids we teach presents a formidable daunting challenge that baffles and irritates us, what crosses my mind? Sometimes when I’m near my tipping point, I secretly wish that I could teach a different class of students. I would very much like the option of bowing out and sitting out of the match. In other words, I crave the easy way out.
And who in similar situations wouldn’t, if we have already been so ingrained with the idea that an easy life is a blessed one?
I should check myself constantly with the reminder that that is a fallacy – a blessed life is one where God is lord of, not one that is devoid of suffering and hardship. Even the Michael W. Smith song (I think) says the same thing: His strength is perfect, when our strength is gone. The Bible does not mention how followers of Jesus has a perfect, happy life – as much as we wish that for our family and friends – “Blessed birthday! May your life be filled with peace, love, and joy!” The Bible does however talk about how God’s grace is sufficient for us to tide through all suffering; and about how a blessed life is one of joy in the Lord’s redemptive work. Am I looking at this the right way?
Term 4 is going to be a really short term, cut even shorter by all the holidays. What will the rest of the year spell for me; will there be change in my life? Now many people may chide me for spending so much time thinking and rethinking this for the longest time. However at this moment, where life equals work, I think it is necessary to invest some thought and time into this life I currently lead.
It has been two years. What will the next year bring?