Right before the weekend, I emailed my biology parents about the unacceptable indoctrination threatening their children in my school district. Even though I was choosing to trust God’s plan, I wanted to be as prepared as I could for the consequences of my actions. Once a girl scout, always a girl scout. I updated my resume and sent it to an amazing private Christian school near me. They had a solid reputation for putting God first and keeping Scripture as their foundation. It would be so nice to not feel like I needed to filter my Faith. So many times, when teaching science, I have had Scripture on the tip of my tongue and refrained from mentioning it, to avoid potential backlash later. The Christian school wasn’t hiring at the moment, but I emailed my resume anyway. Here I am, God. Send me.
I prayed for God’s direction as I sent my resume out. The very next day, I had an email asking to interview me. I took this as assurance from God that He was going to carry me no matter what happened. I quickly responded and set an interview for the following week. Everything seemed to be falling into place seamlessly. Could taking a stand be this easy?
By Sunday, I had messaged my pastor and his wife about everything that had transpired. My church prayer warriors surrounded me and prayed over me. We were a growing army now trusting God with what was becoming clear as the beginning of a battle. As I stood there in the middle of outstretched arms and hearts, I had an overwhelming feeling that there was so much more to do and I would need to roll up my sleeves and be ready to work hard. Even five years ago, I would have been too afraid to put my paycheck and reputation at risk. When my son passed away, though, it was my mother who added some new perspective to my life. She reminded me that everything we accumulate is temporary and can’t go with us when we die. Our time in these bodies is such a tiny blip on our eternal radar. When we go home to God, it will not matter how high we climbed the ladder at our job or how fancy our belongings are, or how decorated our children are. The only thing we will take with us is how we loved God and others. How much do I love my students? Enough to do whatever I can to protect them from this worldly indoctrination? The answer to these were surprisingly complicated as I walked out of an amazing interview with the Christian school. I felt so torn and desperately needed some clear direction from God. Time to hit your knees again, sister.
The next week at school, I was summoned to the principal’s office. Even though this is a person I am honored to serve under, who runs our school with patience and amazing poise at all times, I was sweating like a teenager and silently praying all the way there. It was a long walk, so I managed to go through Psalm 23, Philippians 4:6, and several pleas for peace and wisdom. I knew what this was about and would own my actions. As she closed the door, I quickly rehearsed my polite acceptance of being canned. Instead, she sat down, smiled and assured me that she had no intention of losing me and was equally concerned with the content of the curriculum I was opposing. I had already informed her that I would not continue working there if the curriculum was forced. She assured me that she had carefully formed a plan to meet my requests because she valued me as a teacher and did not want to lose me. Thank you, God, for this woman!
I walked back to my classroom and taught my next class with an ear-to-ear grin. God was clearly in charge and I felt so safe and relieved. When I realized I would not have to leave my amazing, sweet students, I sat in my empty classroom and wept. These students have been burned into my heart. They have their whole lives ahead of them and look at me with big eyes and share with me their even bigger hearts and dreams. They have taught me patience and compassion on a level I didn’t know existed before I began teaching. I can have a rotten start to my day and then my students instantly turn it around with their funny antics and the innocence they try so hard to pretend isn’t there. They are a true source of joy for me.
If you are a teacher and are struggling to find joy in your job, I would like to offer you this: A wise person once said that whatever you expect from a child will not leave you disappointed. In my third year of teaching, I decided to expect only the best from my students every day, to assume that they would be amazing in their behavior and their work. I would enter the building, smile at everyone, exclaim what a wonderful day it was, and let my joy well up and spill out on everyone around me…every day. Love is messy, folks! Warning…if you stand close enough to me, you WILL get sticky with joy. I noticed some other teachers seemed to be equally as happy and it was encouraging. Then, I noticed something phenomenal. Most teachers will testify that there is a noticeable depressing cloud that drags teachers down as Christmas break approaches. Faces are battle worn as teachers sink into survival mode. Teaching is not for the faint of heart. But that year, teachers were still smiling after Thanksgiving and exclaiming how few fights there had been and how wonderful the atmosphere was in our school. God was working there and it was exciting to watch. Proverbs 15:13 says, “A merry heart makes a cheerful countenance, but by sorrow of the heart the spirit is broken.” If we want our students to be filled with joy and peace, we must first show them what that looks like. We must choose joy, so that they may recognize it on our faces.