As teachers, there are several times within the school year that we undergo the process of feedback. Whether it be lesson observations, program checks or, on a larger scale, whole school registration, these types of situations can cause a great deal of anxiety or stress. Through these times, it is vitally important to look after oneself and not live in fear of what others may have to say.
As Proverbs 29:25 from The Message says:
The fear of human opinion disables; trusting in God protects you from that.
I really believe that finding your purpose in Christ can protect you from fearing the opinion of others. To believe fully and completely, that you are living out God’s purpose in your life, is actually a way that you can demonstrate your trust in Him.
Lately I’ve come to realise that for most of my life I have always worried too much about what people thought of me. As a teenager I felt totally inferior to most of the girls in my grade. So to compensate for these feelings, all I felt I could do was to seek to please my teachers by doing everything right. I hated receiving what I saw as “negative feedback” because I wanted it all to be perfect the first time!
This may sound a little like how some of us might feel about receiving feedback from others… we want to make the best impression. We don’t want them to find anything wrong because we’ll feel it is a poor reflection of who we are.
I regularly read a blog by Ann Voskamp (author of One Thousand Gifts) called A Holy Experience. In a recent post about the role of mothers (which I could also apply to teachers), Ann Voskamp said this:
“We all need mothers who love the largest and will say:
Don’t simply follow your heart – but follow a light so lovely that it will ignite your heart.
This road will be less travelled.
This will make all the difference.
Because you are not here to make an impression, you’re here to make a difference.”
I believe that our individual purpose is entwined so deeply into our heart that only the light of God can fully ignite it. Why? Because He placed it there.
The candlemaker knows best how to light the wick.
If we follow the light of Christ directly into our purpose, it will inevitably have something to do with loving others. As believers in Him, that is our purpose, however, we each have gifts, God-given passions and abilities. We need to realise that the way one person shines light and love, could be completely different to another.
When Jesus said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind… and love your neighbor as yourself” He knew it was for our sake, as well as for the sake of others.
When you read this from The Message, it becomes even clearer:
Jesus said “Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence. This is the most important, the first on any list. But there is a second to set alongside it. Love others as well as you love yourself.”
The 2 points I want you to dwell on now, are in that final command. Love others. Love yourself.
Ann Voskamp says that, “Love doesn’t necessarily mean bless or agree with – it means to sacrifice for and suffer with.”
What is it that you should sacrifice for the sake of others? How can you come alongside them and help them in their suffering?
I think that sometimes, being the service-minded Christians that we strive to be, we can forget all about ourselves. We can focus more on meeting the needs of others and forget that we too first need to be filled, if we are to empty ourselves in service.
The wonderful Head of Primary from my school recently sent out an article to all teachers entitled: Can teachers ever have a work-life balance? One of the points it made was that teaching is not the profession for a perfectionist because there will always more to do. It stated that we teachers need to look after ourselves by having (ideally) 8 hours of sleep per night, as otherwise, we are really not giving the best of ourselves to our students.
After reading this I reflected upon another aspect that I believe is just as vital to our wellbeing: We need to make sacrifices for the sake of our gifts and our passions… those things that God wants you to develop and spend time doing, so that you might be better equipped to serve him.
If God gave you the gift of singing and your voice can heal the hearts of others then pursue it. If you like to grow plants or care for animals, then dedicate time to that. If you love to write and draw as I do, then don’t make excuses for why you shouldn’t allow yourself that time. Just do it.
I recently completed what I feel is one of my most spiritually significant works, called One Thousand Tears.
I felt God placed this image in my head and heart after dwelling on Psalm 56:8 (NLT):
You keep track of all my sorrows.
You have collected all my tears in your bottle.
You have recorded each one in your book.
It took me months to actually complete it, as I kept filling my time with other things. While some of those things were necessary, most of them were not.
It was only when I read a guest post by Jessica Turner (author of The Fringe Hours) on Ann Voskamp’s blog, about how important it is for kids to see their parents using and making time for their God-given gifts, that I was actually able to finish it in one go, with my children beside me.
They were no longer a reason for me not to finish it. They became part of the reason I had to.
I believe this concept should be applied to our role as teachers as well as parents. What God-given gift or passion can you share with your students or your children? What you can you do alongside them to inspire them, and in doing so, help them discover and embrace their individual purpose?
I actually shared my artwork with my lunchtime drawing club recently and their reaction was really incredible. They all hushed when they saw it and listened intently as I talked about how I had dedicated many months to completing it, and how I felt that God had given me the image. I encouraged them to think about a Bible verse or an image that might help or inspire people who might be sick, or sad. While I can’t guarantee all of them will have taken it on board, if only one did, then that is enough for me.
We should never feel guilty for the sacrifices we make for ourselves if it is in pursuit of our purpose. If we are to really follow Christ’s command completely, and with a happy heart, then we need to prioritise our lives a little and not forget to love ourselves when we love others. If we can get this balance right, with loving God first and foremost, then I believe we will end up with a truly joyful heart, as we serve him in love.
Hebrews 10:22-24 from The Message says:
So let’s do it—full of belief, confident that we’re presentable inside and out. Let’s keep a firm grip on the promises that keep us going. He always keeps his word. Let’s see how inventive we can be in encouraging love and helping out…
So, is there something that has long since burned out in your heart? If this is speaking to you right now, then follow a light so lovely and allow Him to ignite your heart once more.