How Can We Live No Differently?

I met up with an old old friend and sister-in-Christ this evening, only to be asked some really hard questions. I did not need to play ignorant or pretend that my current lifestyle and mental/emotional health is not reflective of my spiritual state. She knew the void that I was struggling with and how I desperately wanted to fix my eyes on something more — something higher than what I could see.

I shared with her my fear that I would still be in the same position, working equally hard, but still as a teacher, years from now. And she asked directly, Why do you need to know how you will advance? That question caught me unexpectedly, and I had no sure answer. Why did it matter so much that I know where I would be headed three years from now? Why did it matter that I ensured I advanced in my career, either on a teaching or leadership track? Things are different for us as Christians, she posited.

She also asked, What is your weakness? For her she confessed it boiled down to two things: Pride, in wanting to be in control, and the Desire for approval from others. I had not thought about it prior to hearing this question in my face. Why was I trying to do so much, what was keeping me from leaning on God?

I think it is a sense of self-pride, of wanting to be in control. I want to know where I am headed, and what I am capable of, and what is in store in the future. I also think it is slothfulness. Rather than spending my time efficiently, I give myself excuses far too easily to watch a movie, enjoy a good meal, or catch up on sleep. I think diligence should not come only in the form of long working hours, but time spent in a focus and driven manner as well.

Having established that, I realised that the way we make life decisions should differ from the way others do, as sound and solid their advice might be. Just like how we check ourselves when we wait for a partner for life, waiting in faith for God’s timeline to unfold in our lives, we should also have patience and godliness as we listen and humbly submit to His Will – even if I have no idea where my current life decisions will take me.

It is truly a time to kick myself awake and start making changes to my life. So how can we live no different from others, when we have the ultimate promise in an eternal living God? How can I struggle with the same jadedness and cynicism towards life and work, how can I claim to be a child of God, when I fight the same inner-demons to do my work with conviction and joy?

It is a troubling and embarrassing testimony of the power to freedom we have in Christ. I need to live a victorious life, and take on my challenges with wisdom and patience and humility. Colleagues may be difficult and challenges may be tough. But if God opens a way and I prayerfully submit to His will, I can only be certain that His good and perfect plan will unfold.

Time for change, hoshao. Time for change and plenty of prayer.

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Where to, From here?

Term 1 Week 5 was not a pleasant week. I may not be physically taxed to my limit, but I was mentally and emotionally exhausted. Some students chose to be utterly rude and disrespectful to me or/and my co-teacher and I was left speechless (surprise surprise, yet again) at their insolence. Things did not get better later in the week… in fact their two-faced hypocritically conniving nature really sent cold shivers down my spine. With their form teacher in the classroom doing her patrols, they were angelic and perfect students. Yet the change was so radical it was cold and unreal and all a powdered act of pretense. I realized, at the same time, that some students and I had some misunderstandings and got off on the wrong foot, which made me feel obliged to put things right. This small class of literature peeps is not easy to teach. There is a giant abyss of a gap I need to help them bridge, but at the same time, they are craving for some sport and fun and laughter. Is it possible to do both? I scratch my head. My sport and fun and laughter that fueled my love and passion for the subject came from the intensity of studying and appreciating the wonders of the English language, the heartstrings it could pull, the images it could paint, the words it could speak by not speaking. I loved oxymorons and paradoxes and the ironies that we could remark and draw parallels to in our own lives. Those things drove my passion, and I hope these same things will ultimately drive theirs. I had a mini show-down with student(s) in my form class at the end of the week too, and while I feel it can be greatly accorded to their teenage angst and melodrama, their self-centred and emotionally-reactive tempers, I do feel a desire to make things right.

I spent a thousand years of my weekend talking and thinking and feeling and dreaming about this, to be honest. I hate it that all these unpleasant, bitter teacher-student interactions are making me bitter and insecure. I hate it that it is affecting me so greatly, so personally. There, I said it. I dislike it that I cannot pull myself away and forget them, and myself, and us. I feel that it is because I think too highly of myself. If I did not think of myself as someone who mattered a lot, or someone they looked up to and respect, or someone they could trust with all their heart, I would not feel so exhausted and affected. I should be humble, remember my place, that I am merely one out of many teachers they would come into contact with, and these kids choose how much they trust their teachers, not the other way around. We are like dolls sitting on a counter waiting for little girls and boys to pick us off the shelves. Sad.

A conversation I had today turned the tables around much, though. A friend pointed out this evening that we only feel so disheartened and affected because we care too much. When I have some difficulty managing a class, I keep questioning myself: What am I not doing right? What could I have done better? Why can’t I get them to pay attention? I worry that: I am shortchanging the better students. I am not reaching out to the nasty ones enough. If we did not care so much for them kids, would we be so bothered that our lessons are not working 100% the way we wanted? Would we be so affected that some of our students are disinterested and rude?

While we ought to care, do we need to care so much and put our own happiness and sanity on the line? As much as our students choose their teachers, we can’t impact every child the same way, or have every student love us, or be inspired by our lessons. We are not superheroes; we are human beings. If we see ourselves a tad smaller, and our kids even smaller too, perhaps it wouldn’t be so painful. So yes, they are hormonal and sometimes maniacal. They are rude and disrespectful and bratty to us. But thicken our skin, and move on. Because at the end of the day, it is their loss that they are not willing to try be positive and change their mindset. If they are stubbornly obnoxious and refuse to cooperate or learn, they are the ones who will lose out because we will not be affected by their menacing words or tantrums, they will be.

I needed to see it from this perspective, because I was beginning to be sucked into this fraternity too deep. Their angry words and hurled insults can only sting and hurt me as much as I would allow them to. Beyond that, my job is to educate those willing, humble learners and help them to improve their grade for English and prepare for the major examinations at the end of one and a half more years. If along the way we build a good teacher-student relationship, I would be thankful to God and well pleased. If we do not, I would be content having done my part. If the kid is unrepentant and disruptive, there is no more reason why I should tolerate their nonsense, because there is no more time for them to push me around.

After all, let’s think of the trade off: Be upset and throw away the crate of eggs because of a few rotten ones, or pick out the fresh ones and cook sizzling eggs with them? Surely the latter option makes a lot more sense.

So, smaller self and bigger Christ, not bigger students. Deng Deng.

With this, I will begin my next climb from Term 1 Week 6 onward.  With Christ, here we come!