More about entanglements

Read the initial post first or this one won’t make sense.

There I said:

He’s pushed me to think of my secular job as being part of His calling for me and to care more about succeeding at it. He’s drawing me to pray more as I prepare classes, to ask His blessing on my students’ attitudes and understanding.

That’s not quite right. That is being entangled. What I should have said is that He’s pushed me to think of my secular job as being part of His calling for me, to discover its purpose, and to care more about seeing that purpose fulfilled.

Here’s the difference: I teach because I want my students to learn. I need to care about whether they learn. I shouldn’t be worried about whether they learn because of me, or in spite of me. It’s not my personal success that matters, it’s whether they learn. That’s why I pray for my students’ attitudes and understanding rather than for my own teaching. I think it was John Hopler, years ago, who said “Pray for the goal of the teaching more than the teaching”.

But that would put me in danger of becoming emotionally detached again. So having made that modification, I also need to add, “I think it pleases Him when I throw myself wholeheartedly into fulfilling that purpose with the confident expectation that He can use me.

Here’s the new difference: Although I care about seeing the students learn more than I care about having to be the one God uses to accomplish it, yet I also realize that God loves it when I try hard and trust hard to accomplish it.

Then if I succeed, great! If I fail personally, but God blesses the students around me anyway, also great! I know that my effort and heart was valued by him, even if He chose not to use me directly.

What if I fail personally and the students don’t learn? I want to say, “Great again! God is still in charge and I can trust Him to be working.” But, for me, that is another way of being emotionally detached from my students.

Instead, I think a better answer is to seek God more about it. That means first of all to let myself be a little sad that the students aren’t learning. Second, it means to wait on God in prayer, asking God what happened. Specifically I ask:

  • Did I set my goals too high? Was I aiming at something that wasn’t realistic, that wasn’t really His purpose for the job?
  • Is God trying to teach me something? Do I need to repent of something, or do I need to work at improving something in how I teach?
  • Are the students learning in ways that are hidden from me? Is God blessing in ways that I don’t see?
Finally, I can ask God to help me start over again, with a clear conscience and with renewed faith and joy.

Yet those who wait for the LORD
Will gain new strength;
They will mount up with wings like eagles,
They will run and not get tired,
They will walk and not become weary.  — Isaiah 40:31, NASB

Anyway, I guess this is the new version:

He’s pushed me to think of my secular job as being part of His calling for me, to discover its purpose, and to care more about seeing that purpose fulfilled. I think it pleases Him when I throw myself wholeheartedly into fulfilling that purpose with the confident expectation that He can use me. He’s drawing me to pray more as I prepare classes, to ask His blessing on my students’ attitudes and understanding.

I expect I’ll change my mind about it again tomorrow! 🙂 I think God keeps me thinking about this because I’m not very consistent in doing it yet.

 

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