“LORD, HIGH AND HOLY, MEEK AND LOWLY, Thou hast brought me to the valley of vision, where I live in the depths but see thee in the heights; hemmed in by mountains of sin I behold thy glory.
Let me learn by paradox that the way down is the way up, that to be low is to be high, that the broken heart is the healed heart, that the contrite spirit is the rejoicing spirit, that the repenting soul is the victorious soul, that to have nothing is to possess all, that to bear the cross is to wear the crown, that to give is to receive, that the valley is the place of vision.
Lord, in the daytime stars can be seen from deepest wells, and the deeper the wells the brighter thy starts shine;
Let me find thy light in my darkness, thy life in my death, thy joy in my sorrow, thy grace in my sin, thy riches in my poverty, thy glory in my valley.”
(Bennett, Arthur, ed. The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions. The Banner of Truth Trust, 1975.)
One of the greatest things I’ve learned in my career as an educator is HUMILITY. When I started my career as a teacher, I wanted to come in and change the world! I wanted to change lives! I had the expectation that when the school year was over, every student would walk away from my classroom with a desire to study history. Well, if I was teaching elementary school, that may not be too far from the truth. However, I was teaching high school. The ones who “know it all”. A people group who have “been there, and done that”. I wasn’t aware that I’d be teaching students, who for the most part, could care less about what I was teaching. The perspective was that they had to take this class in order to graduate, and needed nothing else beyond that final grade. Now don’t get me wrong, I have had some of the most amazing students. Some of which I’m still in contact with. But there is no better way to bring your head out of the clouds, then to teach what you believe to be one of the greatest lessons you’ve ever taught, only to have students walk out of the classroom without saying a word. Now, I know what you’re thinking. “Mr. Stevens, they were probably so enthralled with what you had to say, that there were absolutely no words to describe the elation they felt from the knowledge you just imparted to them.” Wouldn’t that be nice. The fact of the matter remains, this happened quite often. There would always be a few who would stop and say ‘thank you’, or ‘have a nice day Mr. Stevens.’ But it didn’t take too long to burst the enormous bubble that was my head, and bring me to a place of humility in the role that God had created for me.
The greatest lesson for me was to realize that I was not there to be the greatest teacher these kids had, or will ever have. It was not my place to receive accolades, awards, or verbal confirmation of the job I was doing. My greatest lesson learned was that I was created to serve. It wasn’t about me. It wasn’t about my preparation, my lessons, my PowerPoints, my persona. As the aforementioned prayer states, I’ve learned by paradox. In fact, I can remember that some of my greatest moments as a teacher happened when I was able to release the pressure of having to “perform”. God had called me to a position of leadership in the lives of these students. Yet in my mind, leadership meant authority, power, glory, etc. Yet, I forgot one of the greatest attributes of being a follower of Almighty God, is that leadership is servitude. Leadership as a teacher is the willingness to not be recognized for anything that you do, because ultimately you are affecting lives for God’s kingdom. It’s for His glory, not your own. Being in the field of education is difficult. There is a tremendous amount of pressure on the shoulders of a teacher. There are times when you don’t feel as if you are keeping your head above water. You will feel as if you’re drowning. Let me reassure you that when that time comes, don’t forget the One who can pull you out of the water. Don’t forget the One who can calm the storm. Don’t forget there is One who walks with you through the valley. He is the One who brought us to this valley. He, and only He, will be the One to bring us through it. May we keep our eyes focused upon Him at all times. Not our will, but His be done.
“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 forever.” (Psalm 23, ESV)
To all of the dedicated educators across the country, and around the world, God bless you! May the God of all comfort be with you, lead you, and guide you.