If you have been around me very much, you have probably heard me say that the classroom is my mission field. I truly believe God placed me in the teaching profession in order to be light and salt to the students I teach. I believe that of all teacher-believers. But let’s face it, when we step in the classroom with 30 little humans, or in my case half-grown children, our mission field is easily forgotten. I am sure that is the case for most professions.
God did not call us ALL to be missionaries, but He did give us all a circle of influence. The Great Commission did not have limitations and exemptions. All Christians’ primary job is to win the lost for Christ. But I know when it comes to our jobs and careers, our primary job often gets lost in the hustle. We get caught up in the responsibilities, the deadlines, the pressure…all of it makes us forget our job of walking in Christ.
Part of the problem is we do not prepare for our circle of influence – our mission field – in the way I am sure “called” missionaries prepare. I am just as guilty as the next person. I show up to work with the intention of getting the job done. I have not slowed down enough to think about how or who I need to salt today. I don’t pray about a dark situation I need to shine the light on. I don’t prepare my heart to do the work of the Lord. I do not prepare myself for my mission field. But in John 4, Jesus explains, “I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest.”
And they are. Those ripe fields are one of reasons the job of a teacher – or any job that requires you to work with people – is so difficult. We are aliens in this land, living by a different standard. But if we prepare for the field…if we prepare our hearts and minds for the job at hand, not only will we be more likely to see a harvested crop, but we will also find more satisfaction in our careers. To refer back to a previous post, when we focus more on our true purpose and prepare for the field – the mission field – with the same priority we give to the actual job, we will see a real difference.
So in this post, I want to share several things I am doing this year to prepare myself for the school year… to prepare myself for the mission field.
It seems obvious, right? But for the longest time, my relationship with Jesus and my career seemed to live in two separate worlds. Not to say I behaved differently while teaching, but I was too immature in my walk to see that my relationship with Jesus should be woven into every fiber of me, including the teaching fibers. I mean, God blessed me with the gift, so naturally he would want me to give it back to Him.
I can remember sitting at my desk one afternoon. My head in my hands… I was at a loss on how to teach this particular concept. I just didn’t know what to do so that the students would understand. I could almost hear God’s voice. He very simply said, “Have you prayed about it?” Well… no. Lightbulb moment. Now, I must admit I haven’t committed my entire career to the Lord as I should, but I am taking definite steps to make that a reality. I have planned to pray over my classroom before the school year begins. I would like to write out my prayer and post it discretely in my room. I am going to print strategic Bible verses on labels and put them under all the student chairs in my classroom. I will say a prayer over each one when I place it. I am committed to begin my year bathed in prayer.
But I know much of the difficulty will come in the midst of the school year, when things begin to pile up, when our students and parents have gotten comfortable with us. Prayer should remain a priority for us each day of the year. When my oldest started riding to school with me, I made a commitment to pray every morning before we got out of the car. Ironically, I wanted to set an example for him and use it as a teaching moment. I never realized it is something I should have been doing all along.
And as those days get more difficult and the bright, shiny, new begins to wear off, remember what 1 John 5:14 tells us. “And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us.” He hears and answers our prayers. He will not take away the difficulties of the job. He will not take away the broken students and parents. And He will probably not take away the bureaucratic red tape that keeps us from doing the real teaching, but He will equip us to handle all of it. He will give us the power and patience and peace to make it through all of it. We just have to remember to give it to him first.
Find Your Verse.
In Looking for Lovely, by Annie F. Downs, she explains that each year on her birthday, she spends some time alone to “think, pray, journal, and listen.” Her goal in that time is to find one scripture for the year, a scripture that will guide her, shape her, and focus her for that year. As I prepared for this blog post, I thought back to that great practice. For teachers, I think we should spend some time thinking, praying, journaling, and listening so that we too have a scripture for our school year. Our flesh will all too quickly make us forget our purpose, so we need something to combat those thoughts. Having a verse we can recall as the negativity creeps back in will help us stay focused.
So think and pray about some of your weaknesses from last year. Did you deal with lack of faith in certain situations? Were you overcome with busyness, but not really sure you were accomplishing anything? Did you deal with pride, thinking you didn’t deserve some of what you had to put up with? Were you just so overcome with negativity and couldn’t seem to find anything worthy of joy? Take whatever your issue was and pray over it. Look for verses in the Bible that will help encourage you in those areas. To help you, I am including some verses at the end of this post that may give you some direction, but once you find your verse place it in your heart. Memorize it. Write it in your calendar. Post it around your desk. Do whatever it takes so that it will become part of your thought process.
I too went through the process of finding my verse and coincidentally I landed on the same verse as Annie F. Downs. Philippians 2:14-18 says, “ Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain. Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. Likewise you also should be glad and rejoice with me.” It’s a lot, I know, but it seems to cover all the bases of my weaknesses ( I guess I have a lot too). I grumble and complain, when I need to keep my mouth shut and show the light of Christ. I am in the trenches dealing with the crooked and twisted generations. Teaching requires us to be poured out. It requires sacrifice. But I do know that through it all, I should be glad and rejoice.
Placing this verse in my heart will help me prepare for the year and will refocus me as any one of those issues pops up.
I love the story of Esther. It would make a great novel. Esther was a Jewish slave in Persa chosen essentially to be in a beauty contest. The winner became queen, only because King Ahasuerus relieved his previous wife of her duties because she refused to come when called. As God would have it, Esther became queen. Soon after, she learns of the plot to kill all the Jews. Her uncle Mordecai asks her to go before the king and beg for his favor. Naturally she was afraid. She did not have the freedom to approach the king when she wanted. But how did she respond? In verse 16 of chapter 5, Esther tells Mordecai, “Go, gather all the Jews to be found in Susa, and hold a fast on my behalf, and do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my young women will also fast as you do.” Esther had a big job to prepare for and she knew exactly what she should do to prepare. Prayer and fasting.
I know to some fasting can seem kind of fanatical. I am not asking you to give up all food and drink, but think about one thing you can give up that will help you focus on Christ and encourage your prayer life. Take the week before you go back to school – for me it is the week of July 23 – 29 – and fast. Give up that one thing – social media, caffeine, coffee, sweets, television, – one thing that would be a sacrifice, something you will miss, so that when you do miss it, you can be reminded of your purpose and the importance of praying for the year to come.
I have decided to give up makeup. I have joked about doing that in the past, because I am not sure how sacrificial it is really. It, however, will give me more time in the Word and definitely be a reminder every time I look in the mirror. Regardless of what you choose to fast, commit to prayer and true preparation for the next school year. You too have a big job to prepare for, so make sure you prepare appropriately.
Find a Friend
I think we all know that negativity breeds negativity, and honestly it is so hard not to fall right in and go along with it. Most of the negativity is true. Our jobs are hard, unfair, unrealistic, and a hundred other negative things. But isn’t everyone’s?? If they really want it to be? That is why you need to find a friend, or hopefully several, that can help you stamp out the negativity around you. I know it is hard to stand alone in the world. Negativity and complaining is a slippery slope that we all so easily slide down. We need someone to pull us back up, to remind us we are too close to the edge, to encourage us to focus on the hilltop instead of the valley. First Corinthians 15:33 reminds us “Bad company ruins good morals.” We may all have good intentions when we set out for the day, but it only takes one conversation to turn our day around.
Yes, we are called to be the light, but isn’t it so much easier to be that light in a room full of others who are also shining brightly. Proverbs 13:20 tells us “Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.” We preach this verse to our children, but don’t forget it applies to us as well. It is so easy to go with the flow and hold up our banner of negativity, but think of how much happier we are when we are not listening to or participating in the griping.
As you and your friend grow in encouragement, you can make a point to spread that encouragement to others. Let positivity spread instead of negativity. Be the group that helps change the tide. I know how hard it can be to stand alone, so find that person or group that will help you see the bright side and remind you of your purpose.
We have a great purpose and a field that is ripe to harvest. We cannot casually prepare for this job put before us. The farmer does not plant seeds without first preparing the land. He works hours and hours to eventually harvest his crops. Our jobs are no different. The job takes planning and preparation and I am not talking about lesson plans. I am talking about our heart and our focus on God. We need to prepare with those things in mind to genuinely see a difference in the work put before us. When we do that, we will begin to grow alongside of others and a great crop will be harvested.
Possible Focus Verses:
Lack of Faith:
Galatians 2:20 : I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
Mark 11:24: Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.
Psalm 119:30: May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.
Luke 10:38-42: Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”
Ephesians 5:15-17: Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.
Matthew 6:33: But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
Philippians 2:3: Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.
James 4:10: Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.
Colossians 3:12: Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience
Philippians 4:8-9: Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.
Isaiah 26:3: You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord