Teaching, Respecting one’s elders, and the Eventual progressions of replacing those who taught you
Church was fabulous, and right now, the concept of respecting one’s elders is firmly rooted in my heart as something that I feel needs talking about.
Have you ever called your Teacher(s) “Mom” or “Dad”, when you were younger, perhaps not thinking about it? As children, it seems that we have this understanding that adults are people to be respected. Only adults can give really good glares. Only adults will know (and panic) if you ate the last jello without saying anything. At the same time, there are certain sets of experiences that unequivocally shape our lives. “Identity formation” is a concept that talks about how people grow into the people they will become for the rest of their lives. It has deep psychological and creative writing roots, and it builds off of the idea that people evolve over the course of their lives.
Spending time with second graders lately as a tutor, I realize how much has not changed in my own life. At a new job helping students develop reading and writing skills, at the same elementary school as I was raised, with a teacher who was one of my own when I was in third grade myself, there are very few things that separate me from these kids, other than time. I know some of how they feel in relating to their teacher, because I felt the same when I was in third grade. I remember her. I get to work with them, and nothing could be better than that. They each have these beautiful, unique personalities, and I like hanging out with them. Clearly, I do more than hang out, because I’m working. But at the same time, there is nothing that separates these kids from my own children, other than time.
I look back over the course of my life, and there is very little than couldn’t have been predicted by a careful turning over of events and the genuine interests God put in my heart over time. That should be obvious, I think. Things that I would have only known by remembering that my 6th grade independent study was researching Hitler’s backstory, and linking that knowledge to the day I realized “Psychology” was the name for what I tried to do to him then, attempting to relate his own past to the way he treated others. At the same time, it “Psychology” eventually became replaced with the love I found through Jesus. But unless a person has encountered the love of God, so many labels will never become the kind of backwards he loves with.
I love these kids. I love hanging out with them. They may not be mine, but I understand them. Part of that is because I remember. Part of that is because when I was in school, I adored my teachers. They were my heroes. They were the coolest people I knew, because if I liked them, they were generally pretty nice. Kind people, with kind hearts. None of them was perfect, but for the most part, they tried. It was a little different past elementary school, but having so many caring adults changed me, even if I only realize it in moments of chaos and semi-strife. It takes a village to raise a child, and if I didn’t have the positive role models of my teachers stored in the back of my brain for emergency situations (and the ones that would come), I am serious in saying that I am not sure I would have bothered to keep going. It doesn’t take much to see value in someone, in their words, or the talents that they cherish. To celebrate that talent and love and foster it in a way that can lead people to health later in life, when they most need it: that is good teaching to me.
Teaching does not have the same effect on all people. It just doesn’t. For whatever reason, sometimes it takes longer for some people to learn, or to accept failure, or simply move on. Some people die before that happens. Some people live very unhappily for their entire lives. But I know that only in Christ is there the kind of stability and peace I need to be the best person and adult I always envied. That peace is mine now, not just because I can claim it, but because Christ gave his life so that I would have the right to.
I don’t have any answers of my own, not really. They simply don’t stand up. I run in these thousand different directions, and they all go down the toilet if I don’t allow Christ to become my focal piece. The reason why I live. The joy that I’m looking for.
I know that there is no good without the love of God. I have seen it. Thing is, there are a lot of things that any human does wrong, and they all overlap one another in this infinite chain of failure until those chains are broken by the Holy Spirit. It suffocates.
There will always be hope, because the love of God doesn’t end. It simply doesn’t. It’s an eternal thing. There isn’t a limit for a fancy occasion, there isn’t a truth when it’s convenient; there is the all-consuming love of God that transforms and changes. He does it. It is a blessing to know that.
I love my Teachers, even if it’s been years. They were some of the kindest and most selfless people I have ever known. They often took care of me. Learning from more people, it seems like the most motivated and loving people eventually support the same causes that helped them enormously. The same love that Christ had for humanity. Even if you don’t believe in Jesus, that love is what binds any good thing. It is what solidifies something beautiful, and the relationships that bless others. It is the kindness that cannot necessarily be measured except by being witnessed. If Jesus came to save all, then teaching as a profession is so much like Christ that it just makes sense, after a while. Sometimes when I worry about the future and what my life will become, I am in this stand still moment between God and being unsure of what the rest of my life will hold. When I step foot in that classroom, I know that at least in some places, in church, with some people and in the small niches of the world that I have been blessed to know, I belong. I belong in a way that I can’t express, except in gratitude. “Finding your people” means something when I work with kids, because they remind me of what it means to be better than myself. It’s a motivation that is so divine I can’t express it all the way. I want more for them. For our world, but moreover, the world they will inherit, long after I have cast it off. There is about 14 years that separates me from them, slightly less. That is long enough to be remembered as one full generation, in any history textbook or in the places that one day, people will read about. I love my family, and the people who are younger than me, and in Christ, we are all one family. If I want to treat the world as I would want it to be passed on to my children, I have to be better for them.
Those children, they are like me. I may not be worthy of calling myself like them, but in ways that will only be revealed through the passage of time, we are together in some sense of justice. The whole world is like that. We love as one. We mourn as one. Death comes to us all. I believe in a greater love, but I know that the only way to get there is through Jesus. They are like me, yes, but I want them to be so much greater than me, over the course of our lives. I want them to be blessed more. I want them to know more joy. To be less afraid. I would ask that for them. I would ask that God would bless them in the same ways as I could never have earned for myself, and I know that he does all things for his good, even when they are momentarily terrible. I can’t explain it, but when I am with those kids, I know. It is so much more than enough, it is the overwhelming blessing of having something more beautiful to give to, and the expectation that I can do more, and should.
I want to invest in beautiful lives. This is what it feels like to find something so special: it overwhelms. I want to teach not just because it is something I desire to do, but because not being able to work towards supporting others seems unfathomable, now that I know it. I have been wrestling with whether or not to get my car fixed again lately, and the truth is, I need to fix it because I need to use some of my extra time for the people I would love to give it to anyways. If I don’t have a place to volunteer, I don’t feel fully alive. It just seems worthless. So long as it can be of use, I hardly care. Service is a part of me, and I am called to it. I need to fix my car not just because it is sitting broken in my driveway, but because all of this spare time that I own goes to waste if I do not, and can’t be responsible for getting to the places I need to be serving at. It just makes sense.
Trust is a powerful thing, and I trust God. I know he knows what’s up. I have spent so much time being heart-broken lately for no particularly good reason. I think it helped me to realize I was being an idiot, but I didn’t always try to pull myself out of it. I think that allowing oneself to feel something is important, but allowing good things to come back into your life is more necessary. Some things are just hard, and the further I pursue God, the more I remember why I even started. He loved me. That simple.
There are so few things that any person truly needs. It is strange to be in February, and have everyone talking about love. The further I pursue God, the more I realize that nothing in my heart changes, when it comes to the people I love. Strength comes in difficult circumstances, and I am grateful for the blessings God has brought over my life. The different layers of my disappoint crumble like the petals on a rose when I realize that the only true thing I care about is the love of God, and letting that flow over all things in my life. Yes, I love my family. But my family is so much bigger now.
I think the true meaning of moving on is to see the painful (but good) decisions you made in the past and realize that actually, there was some truth there. I look back to entries I wrote in November and December, and frick, those were really rough. I know I made the right decisions, because otherwise they would hurt so much more. I still care about that boy. But it is simply not my place to have to justify that without knowing the truth. I cannot. It is not in me. I see some of the things I wrote, and although I remember all of it, I realize my own fair share of mistakes. No one could have asked for any of that, and even though I felt bad, I felt most awful for him. It was not his fault. I was wrong, for a good bit of it. But time goes on, and people learn. And truly? I am happy that God exercised the boundaries that he did. I would not be able to have the trust I do today if he didn’t provide all of it.
In anything, you are healed if you choose to be. You are healed because you believe it, and God provides that support as you live. I may be wrong so often, but it is not my job to be right. That can sound so much like an excuse, but it is so much more the acceptance of the facts. Choosing to ignore good things that come from pain is like pretending they never hurt in the first place. It isn’t “blowing things out of the water” to acknowledge what hurts, but it isn’t fair to wound others by justifying whatever is going on with you in that moment. It isn’t right to justify your pain onto other people’s wounds. That just isn’t fair.
Walking with dignity and the grace of God means so much more; it’s like you actively choose to know better over time, and learn from your failures. I know this intimacy with God because of Christ, who never failed. Thank God for that.
As contrary as it seems, peace comes in knowing your place. I hate that, because I have been rebellious in a lot of ways since I can remember. That isn’t a bad thing, because it just means I know that there can be better. But with the second graders I spend time with, if any of them were ever to stumble in a lot of the ways I have personally, my heart would break. Respect isn’t for me, but it is a personal choice. How can I ask better of them if I do not invest in living up to the same things they will be asked? If you want to change the system, you’ve got to start by understanding the reasons it exists, and learning how to adjust to the integrity that you hope to demonstrate.
I want more for them. I just do. If I have kids in some 7 years from now, they will be the same age I was when my brother Casey and his wife had my nephew Lincoln. My nieces and nephews shape my understanding of the work I hope to do, because not only are they family, they too are so young. It will be nice to cultivate the good habits I would like to pass on to my children someday, even if “my children” are just the children I teach.
I know God provides, and I know he has put this passion in me for a purpose. I’m looking forward to watching him unravel it as we walk. He holds all the glory in this, and thank God.