Today was extra special for me. I was so very tired when I got up this morning, my head-ached, and I felt that my teaching materials (power points) weren't long enough to fill the required class time. It is so hard to know how much material and time to prepare for each day. Sometimes I think I have plenty, and then other times, I worry about being too short (not enough). On top of those feelings, I was weary from spending too much time online the night before. I didn't get to bed before 1:30 am (working on these PPTs and my Regent school work). Needless to say, my brain was fried, even after sleeping a good 8 hours during the night.
As I was driving over to ACU this morning, I laid my teaching frailities at the Lord's feet. Honestly, I am so tired of stressing over my abilities, worrying about if my students like me (respect me), or if I am doing a good enough job. Teaching is difficult for me. I cannot control the outcome, and as an INTJ personality, controlling outcomes is one of my key abilities. I strive to always control the outcome. Results, performance, analysis, etc. -- these are things that come very easy for me. I am able to focus, to drive my time and my attention toward producing good results. In teaching, however, while I can control my part of the equation, I cannot control the student, their behavior, their learning, OR their outcome (achievement). What bothers me the most is not being able to control all the parts of the equation. I want to be in charge from start to finish, to oversee every single part of the performance. I don't want to fail, I don't want to perform badly, and since I cannot control my students and their learning experience, I stress extra hard over my part. It is vicious, and it wears me down.
This behavior, I do not believe, pleases the Lord. I don't think He wants me to be so stressed over my performance all the time. I think He does want me to give my time and my attention to my work, but not in an excessive or abnormal way. We should be careful in our approach to our work, and yes, I believe that doing our "best," flawed as that may be, is honorable. I believe, though, when we let the focus shift from the Lord to ourselves, it is then that we find ourselves in trouble.
Anything that takes primacy over our focus on the Lord is idolatry. Merriam-Webster defines an idol/idolatry as this:
the worship of a physical object as a god
immoderate attachment or devotion to something
I think we would all agree that many of the things we focus on are not worshiped as a god. It is the second definition, the "immoderate attachment or devotion to something," where we can see the overlapping issue. Is the person or thing we are attached to, devoted to, causing us to shift our focus intently from the Lord to ourselves or this one thing? If the answer to that question is yes, then I think we may be struggling with an idol/idolatry situation.
The WORD says this about work-related idols:
Psalm 115:4 - "Their idols are silver and gold, The work of man’s hands."
Work in any form can become an idol if we allow it to do so. Even psychological work -- thinking about work, fixating on performance, driving goals, unceasing attention or worry over achievement, etc. These are all part of the worldly culture of man that elevates performance and achievement and success above that of a humbled, God-focused life -- intent on the love, the devotion, the worship, and the service to the Lord.
I thought about the nature of idolatry, of idols, and I knew right away that my fixation on my work/performance was crossing the line from being conscientious to abnormally focused. I did the right thing, right there in the parking lot of the campus -- I confessed to the Lord that I have made my work (teaching) an idol. I have fixated over the process, the performance, and the praise of teaching when I should have let it all go, laid it down, and let the Lord lead me through each class session. I made the commitment to Him saying that I would do this from now on.
After making that commitment, I experienced such relief, such peace, and I had two really great class sessions. Did my students miraculously get involved in class? No, not really (well, my freshmen did -- my Jr's and Sr's -- not so much!) The big discovery was that I was relaxed, and relaxing makes all the difference in a class. It helps you be more in tune with your students, more animated, more lively. The students do respond to your face and your actions more so than your words. My personality type is not expressive (overly) and I am not a hyped-up teacher. I am very sober and intentional. I am trying to be more responsive to my students, to send the message that "I care about you and your thoughts." When I relax in the classroom, then I am able to relate to them, focus on them, and be "in the moment." It is such a good thing, such a God-thing.
Today was good, and I am hoping that next week will also be good. I see no reason for it not to be good every day -- so long as I remember to allow the Lord to lead me in my teaching. I don't want to stay bound up, pressured, and feeling like I am failing all the time (lies of the enemy). I know the Lord has me well covered, well covered, and I am endeavoring to rest in His work, His way, and His will. May the Lord be praised today and forever more! Amen.