“Not What I Envisioned”

How’s teaching going?” many people ask me. I say something simple, like, “It’s going great, I’m learning a bunch,” then hurry on to the next topic. The fuller answer I could give is a bit more personal.

It’s tough. Twenty years of Christian education and great teachers certainly equipped me well. However, as I stand in front of my class, I realize just how challenging teaching actually is. There is still so much to learn, and I can’t do it alone.

What is so challenging? Those two students who just won’t stop talking. That teenager who seems to detest God’s Word and who bangs his head on the desk whenever I talk about Jesus. The intelligent girl who is a little frustrated because my teaching isn’t the clearest and my expectations aren’t precise. Figuring out how to teach. Figuring out how to balance checking late work, preparing tests, grading, emailing parents, and making lesson plans. Figuring out how to encourage students to discuss God’s Word and apply it in their lives.

How’s teaching going? Not what I envisioned . . . but that’s where God’s grace shines through.

If I had the option to go back in time and reconsider the decision to teach for one year at Manitowoc Lutheran High School, I wouldn’t hesitate. I’d accept again. Because of God’s grace and what that grace has done for me and through me.

What God envisioned came to pass. And, indeed, he has taught me so much:

1.         Keep learning. Never have the attitude, “I’m good enough.”

2.         Ask others for advice!

3.         God still richly showers blessings on clanging cymbals.

4.         Passion and love for your subject go a long way.

On top of all that, there have been several small improvements and realizations along the way so that I am a better teacher now than when I started.

What God envisioned came to pass, and he has done so much through me. But realize this: I don’t have any heartstring-tugging success stories. I can’t point to some students and claim to have had a life-altering impact on them. And that’s okay. That might be humanly measured success anyway. So what did God work through me? Ninety-some students heard about the love of God expressed in his Word and in history—all year, every day. The Holy Spirit worked on their hearts through his Word. I was just another piece of God’s plan to reach out to these students with his grace.

How angry Satan must be! He has spent so much time and effort trying to mold our students’ culture and lives with the intent of dragging them along a path that leads to hell, and God brings onto the scene a clanging cymbal like me to bring the only thing that can truly drive Satan away and cut up his plans: the living, breathing, eternal Word of God. I honestly can’t tell you a better use of my time than that, and there’s no way I would have spent it any other way.

And now, I have a whole year of experience teaching high schoolers. I have learned that their culture is often focused on “self” and that the enemy is seeking to tear our young adults away from God. This teaching experience has been a priceless learning experience. It will help me also in the future to reach other high schoolers in whatever life and ministry opportunities the Lord graciously provides.

How’s teaching going? Not what I envisioned. And I thank God for that. What he envisioned was so much better.

Orie Thomford served in an emergency call for the 2019-2020 school year. This article first appeared the 2020 issue of Preach the Gospel.

Orie was installed as an emergency instructor at Manitowoc Lutheran High School.