Friday, August 28, 2009

Imitating God

Being a high school science teacher demands a lot of patience. I mean a lot. Many students come into my room sometimes two or three years behind in math, have difficulty finding main ideas when reading, and don't know what a complete sentence is. On top of that, they're often raised in households with only one parent, who probably works two jobs and leaves the child-rearing to their teenager. Even if a steady male figure (live-in boyfriend or stepdad) is around, it's not uncommon for anger to be the sole disciplinary tool.

Yet when I ought to have compassion and patience, instead I find myself exasperated by minimal efforts, lack of prior knowledge and skills, and torpid progress. Some of my students are honestly just plain lazy. A few are even, yes, stupid. On top of that, they often want every day in class to be like an episode of CSI, yet my school lacks the funding to obtain much lab equipment which is considered pretty basic. And then--the lack of respect teens have for others and their sense of entitlement can really put me over the top.

But the gospel addresses me to live differently, to bear with my students as God has borne with us in Christ. I immediately thought of my students when I was reading Paul's letter to Titus yesterday.
Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and to show true humility toward all men.
At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit. (Titus 3:1-5)

I was reminded that if it weren't for God's merciful re-creation by his Holy Spirit, I too would be in the same mess: foolish, disobedient, and ruled by self-centeredness. God didn't wait until I cleaned up my life and paid respectful attention to him before pouring out his kindness and love.

In the same way, then, I need to live out this gospel with my students. I need to encourage them and build them up instead of belittling them in exasperation. I need to be patient and considerate of their needs instead of giving up, dumbfounded. I need to be gentle and gracious with them when they disappoint me or anger me, persisting to be for them and on their side. After all, it's only when "kindness and love" appear that change happens.

"Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ forgave you. Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God" (Ephesians 4:32 - 5:2).

1 comment:

Ted M. Gossard said...

Yes, that can make all the difference in the world for your students, or for a student!

When they sense you have a love for them, as well as a love for what you are teaching.