Today, our class was a Christmas party, and I gave a gift to each student of a candy cane, hot chocolate packet, cookie, little cake, and mini-snickers bar all wrapped and tied with a ribbon. They were very excited to receive the gifts, and most of them hurriedly ate the coveted snacks. To my surprise, a group of girls got my attention and asked not-so-politely, “More? More?” I didn’t know how to respond. And in my frustration with such a lack of gratefulness, I immediately remembered the books of the Old Testament that I have been reading through lately. Again, I remembered the Israelites and how they over and over and over again cried to God for help, enjoyed His salvation, and promptly left Him once again only to cry to Him in their next time of trouble.
If you read the Isaiah and Jeremiah, the thing that will amaze you is that God over and over and over shows them completely unconditional grace. I also have been showing immense amounts of grace to these students in the hopes that they will understand my love for them and let that be their motivation. Perhaps God feels the same way. But what amazes me is how God never gave up on them. Yes, He disciplined His people like a good Father. And then He redeemed them again and again. Why? Because… they are His. Now, in the new covenant through Jesus, we who believe are His children. We have the full rights of a child of God. That identity is the only condition God considers in how He relates to us. We are His, and we can dwell secure therein.
I want that to be the same for my students. I want them to know that they are my students, and I won’t give up on them. Even just now, one of the troublemakers of the class walked into the teachers office. I know he misbehaved today, and I know he’ll probably misbehave tomorrow. But I still smile at him because… he is my student. I love him because he’s mine, and that identity is sufficient. (Perhaps I need to take a lesson from God on what discipline looks like too though…)
I’m so glad God isn’t like me. I become so frustrated when I can’t get students to listen well to my class. And somehow God still loves us dearly when we flat-out reject Him, when we drag His name through the mud, when we refuse to follow His guidance, when we pretend to want Him but don’t seek. He is truly amazing.
After class I ate dinner with Todd in the canteen and vented about my frustrations from class. Then I came back to the office to write this post, exhausted and not exactly looking forward to class tomorrow. I opened my email and clicked on the Verse of the Day that had been sent to my inbox. Up popped the familiar, but so perfectly timed words: “Come to Me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28) And I stand reminded once again that I am not the one pulling the weight in this yoke. God has put Himself in me, and He will do it. So I take a deep breath, and say, “God can do this.” That’s enough to get me through.
I do so deeply love being here. I love these students, and that’s why it is so hard to see them wasting opportunities to learn and grow. I know God loves them even more; He is the one who put the love in me to begin with! All I want is His kingdom to come, His will to be done in me. And I trust He will do it.
That is peace. That is joy. That is hope.
Gee, I love God!