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Day 8: Of grieving, getting punished, and being lifted out of the dirt

August 18, 2018


The first full week of school has concluded.  We’ve undergone our first round of Monday-through-Friday successfully.  I can feel my body – especially the sleep cycle – starting to mesh with the hour-by-hour schedule.  As any teacher can attest, this is not easy, but with a little patience we slowly get into the rhythm of the exacting schedule.

I’m sitting here with a coffee next to me on Saturday morning at the kitchen table, reflecting on what I should tell you about yesterday, and I must shake my head and smile.  It was quite an active day.  There are numerous incidents I could share, but I’ll whittle them down to a handful:

One of our students has been in her second day of grieving over the loss of a grandfather earlier in the week.  Her precious grandpa succumbed in his sleep unexpectedly; she never got a final chance to see him nor to say good-bye.  She came to my room early on Wednesday and broke down crying, but she wanted to stay in school; at least she would have the classes to occupy her mind.  Yet she needed rest and peace.

Here is one of the great things I love about GCA.  On Friday through the day, at virtually every turn I saw a teacher or a student alongside her, consoling her, listening to her, hugging her, being present with her.  I am especially impressed with the anonymity of service; between classes many a teacher would quietly approach this young lady and minister in any way they were able, showing gentle care for one in grief.

Later on in the day things were not so great; within my own classroom I had to deal with some students who were texting each other on their laptops during my instruction on Heaven.  I walked away from the whiteboard and addressed the whole class.   “If this is the problem we’re going to have, then everyone close their laptops and get out paper.  That’s the way we’ll take notes so as to stop this nonsense; we’ll revert back to the slower ways. ”  As they pulled out their pens and pencils, throwing sidelong glances at the guilty pair, I addressed the entire class. “When you insist on this type of behavior of inattention and distraction, you drag down the intellectual pursuit of the entire class, and I cannot in good faith allow that to happen.” I dealt with the offenders after class, but I will not go into detail about that here.   I simply want my classes to know that every time we meet I have a world of incredible spiritual truths to share and less than an hour to share them, and I will not allow interruptions in the digging of the great depths of the Scripture.

But, ah, overall, the day was great.  As I readied them to get back into their teams to continue work on their Powerpoint presentation of Heaven, Mike raised his hand.  “You are showing that passage in Corinthians about Believers getting rewarded for their service here on Earth.  How does that work?  Do certain Christians get more rewards than others?”

As I addressed him, Carla raised her hand.  “What about children who die?  They didn’t get much chance to serve the Lord.  Do they get less rewards just because they didn’t have as much time to serve?”

Abby raised her hand.  “For that matter, where in the Bible does it say that babies go straight to Heaven when they die?”

On and on through a wonderful hour it went.  They were firing questions one after another.  A teacher’s dream.

Mind you, I get excited not because I get to open a vault of wisdom and try to impress them with my store of knowledge, as little as that is – the Lord knows that’s not the point at all.  Rather, it’s the fact that they are willing participants in the intellectual and spiritual trek that leads to great insight into God’s glory.

I am seeing a groundswell – slowly but surely – of God moving through the hearts and minds of the Bible class students.  The action is of God; I am being carried along.

In fact, I am being lifted up.  Please let me explain.

Sometimes we Bible teachers do not see fruit in the classroom and after weeks and maybe months, frustration starts to build.  Am I not serving?  Am I unproductive?  Am I wasting the students’ time? 

Am I hindering the cause of Christ?

Will I be judged because of my lack of fruit in the classroom?  After all, John 15 says that the unproductive vine will be cut off…

The New International Version of John 15:2 indeed says “He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit”,  but wait a minute – back up and look at the Greek word airei and you’ll see that a better rendering is found in both the New American Standard as well as the King James version where it says that “Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away.”  The key is in the phrase “takes away” which also means “lifts up.”  I find this fits the context much better.

Many Bible scholars urge us to consider the Greek verb for “takes away” which is airei, has a very strong definition of “lifts up.” Consider that God the Father, rather than throwing aside, actually lifts up barren vines off of the ground to give them better and more intense sunlight.  He picks them up Himself; they cannot do it on their own.

Sometimes an “unproductive” teacher gets into a dangerous cycle of negative self-examination.  The students are not responding.  Is it me?  Have I not prayed enough?  Is my Bible reading not as as deep as it should be?  Has God become tired of me?

Is my life and my service going to be some routine with no power?  I feel like I’m spent, dormant, on the ground…

I tend to be one of those people.

When that frustration hits, I see the treasured words of John 15:2 and it renews me with an eagerness I find hard to explain.

I believe that the John 15:2 passage tells us that if I would – and please do not misunderstand this word – relax myself in the Father’s grip enough to be lifted into full submission into the Heavenly Vine Dresser’s almighty hands, I will allow myself to be raised up first to be made aware of His full attention.  He’s been watching over me, for sure, but it might just be that my time near the ground has made me concentrate on the soil more than the Savior.

God knows our heartache and frustration; He will lift us up.  Our ready submission to let Him simply take over leads us to be able to bask in the sunlight of His truth and feel the warmth of His love and watch Him do great things that can only be attributed to Him and His glory.

Two weeks ago before I stepped foot into my classroom I made the commitment of ceasing to raise myself and finally letting God lift me up, and the result has been amazing – in realizing that it is He who takes care of me in each class period, reminding me in the midst of all the bells and schedules to “be still and know that He is God.”  Every time I retreat to that dependency in that secret place and abide in the pruning shadow of the Almighty, He opens me up to witness the wonder of His care and direction.

Right in room 129.

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  1. I also tend to be one of those who tends to “over examine himself.” Now that I’m retired I have even more time, and find myself questioning how much of my teaching His word has been useful to Him. But I leave it n His hands of infinite Grace, and the trust that He wastes nothing of honest effort and unintentional mistakes.

  2. GW thank you for your insight. I agree that just when we wonder if we have been useful, we let God show us that He has it all under His control and guidance. I have read some of your posts and find them a blessing!

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