January 6, 2014

Well, the day has finally arrived. It is my first day back at school - as a student and as a teacher! It is a weird feeling, really, when I stop and think about it. I mean, it is my third semester at Regent, and I am less nervous about the course work then ever before. Perhaps it is because I am used to the level of assignments, the volume of readings, and the length of the discussion posts. Or maybe it is because I am more settled in the knowledge that I am where I belong, in that God's plan for my life includes my PhD at Regent, and that I am blessed and favored to be successful in my studies (I cannot take any credit for the work I have done thus far -- clearly -- He is the ONE who has made all this possible, and to whom all the praise, all the honor, and all the glory belong!) I should be quaking in my boots, after all, besides taking a communication seminar in family communication, I am enrolled in an advanced Statistics course (and I have never had statistics before!) Truthfully, I have panicked over this class since the day I first read about it on the course requirements for the degree. I have thought about it, made plans for how I would work and take the class, and literally "sweated over the small stuff" just thinking about it. Yet, here I sit, and I am not panicked at all. I have this sense of peace, this knowledge that it will be OK, and this feeling that I am not in control over the class or the details of it. I feel like I am here and present, but that God has me so well-covered that I don't need to worry or be anxious about any of the assignments or the level of work expected of me. I cannot believe I am this calm, but I am.

I am more anxious over my teaching assignment, and I have a stomach ache this morning (normal nerves). Why is this? Why don't I have the same sense of peace that I have with my classes at Regent? Hmmm...perhaps I need to pray over this one for a moment?

Lord, I ask that you give me your peace over my class today. I ask that you bless my time, my preparation, and my skills as teacher/mentor/guide for the students you have assigned to me this semester. Bless our content, our discussions, and our time. I ask all this in your Name. I need YOU to teach through me. I need YOU to handle everything that will happen, and I need YOU to do this for me. I let go now, knowing that whenever I hold on to something, then you are not able to work through me to produce the results you want to produce. I let you handle it, take care of it, and I rest now in your authority and decision-making ability. You know these students needs, and you know what GCU expects of me. I go today in your grace and with your favor and blessing, knowing that you have placed me in this school for a reason, and that you are responsible for my good success. I ask all this now in the mighty NAME of Jesus, Amen. So be it, thy will be done. Selah! (Pause and calmly think about it!)
 I think the issue stems from the fact that I have bold confidence when it comes to being a student. I feel invincible whenever I am asked to learn something new or take a class. I know how to be a student. I know what to do. I am less confident in teaching students, and that is the crux of the problem. I am uncertain on how to fill time, on what types of engagement strategies will work best for me. I fret over the small things, the little things, and I worry about how I will perform because I do not have experience teaching college courses. I know I can do it -- I know my abilities. It is more that I don't have the experience to demonstrate that I have successfully overcome (does that make sense?) It is like having head knowledge about God, but not having personal experience (testimony) to support the knowledge. You can be really knowledgeable, but without practice, you are nothing. This is how I feel right now. I think that I know what I am doing, but I haven't actually done it (in a very long while) so I am nervous about it.

The funny thing is this -- about a dozen or so years ago -- I was asked to lead our church's AWANA program. I had been involved with AWANA since my son was a Cubbie (age 3). I was a room leader, and then later took on the role of the Games leaders for the little guys. It was fun, and it wasn't too much of a stretch for me to move from being Mom to being a team leader (after all, they were just kids -- and I was MOM to all of them).

One day, our Children's Pastor came to me to tell me that the previous Director was stepping down due to family concerns, and asked whether I would consider filling her role. The previous person was strong-willed and very authoritarian. She was a good leader, and she ran the program well. I was untested, untried, and I didn't think I could do it. Our Pastor assured me that I could do it, and that he would help me as much as possible. I prayed over it, and then said "yes" so long as he really would help me (with budgets and such).

I stepped into the role as Director, amidst some upheaval, and some unpleasantness (some leaders not thinking I was the right choice for the position). I didn't lead the way the former director did because my personality and hers were different. I was laid back and easy going. I wanted to have fun (even though I am not social and outgoing), and I thought that what mattered most was to make sure the leaders and the children had fun too.

I was Director for a couple years, and I found that I was able to stand up in front of hundreds of children and leaders and present information. I could calm and quiet a big crowd. I don't remember exactly what I did back then, but I just did it. I stood up to the microphone and did what was needed.

I got some criticism, of course, but generally speaking, most people said they liked the way I ran the program. I made a lot of mistakes, and I didn't get along with everyone. I didn't intentionally offend people, but there were some people who didn't like my style. They didn't like my low-key approach (not stringent enough) or they thought I was a control freak (yes, in some ways this was true). Overall, the program was a success, and I enjoyed my time as leader.

It has been a long time since I was in that role. I stepped out of leadership in 2009, right when my life was in the tank. I needed to focus on me, and make sure I was taking care of my son. I also felt that it was too difficult to explain why I was separated and serving in ministry. I needed to step away, and unbeknownst to me, God was opening up a door for me to return to school and study at Mercy College.

I put education as my focus, and as a result, I am now working on my doctorate. I would like to be involved in ministry again -- but I believe that God is asking me to wait a while longer before being active (He knows I have such limited time with school).

So here I sit and I think about those days when I was an Awana leader. I loved ministry, and I loved working with kids. I loved everything about it, and that time in my life was special to me. It gave me purpose, and it provided a much needed outlet for my life.

I guess I need to think about teaching as a ministry. Perhaps that is where I am stuck right now. If I look at teaching these students, the ones God has drawn to me, as a ministry, then I might not be so miserable over the fear of failure. I would turn over everything to the Lord because, after all, it is up to Him to do the growing and the learning and the connection-making. I am a vessel for His use. He works through me, and I go where He sends me (it is our agreement, our covenant with each other).

So with that said, I let go of teaching as a job, and I embrace it as a ministry. I am not pursuing teaching for a career (something the Lord has always said to me), but rather, I am teaching to learn how to work in His ministry, and to be prepared for the work He has in mind for me down the road. It is a training ground, so to speak, and it provides practical experience in public speaking, in lesson planning, in organization, and in working with diverse populations. Ok, so I get it. I am a minister, and not a teacher. I am first and foremost working in His ministry, for His purpose, and toward the fulfillment of His plan. Therefore, what I do so long as I am surrendered to His will, will be successful and approved. God is good. He is so very good to me. He knows me well, and He understands me. I love Him, and I love working with Him and for Him. I give Him all the praise today, and I rest in His sufficiency and provision.

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