I’ve been back in China for four days, and it hasn’t been easy. For long portions of my entire time in Beijing this year, I’ve struggled with discontentment and a desire to be somewhere else. I would dream, literally, of being back in Oregon doing something, anything. I would wake up and not want to start another day. I would dread some classes knowing I would struggle with class discipline. I would be constantly counting the days in my head until my next trip back to the States.
I hated living this way, and I still do. More than anything, I couldn’t understand why I was feeling this way. Isn’t this all I ever wanted? To be living in a foreign culture, learning another language, making great friendships, and having incredible opportunities to teach, share, lead, and influence others? Deep down, I knew I still desired all those things. I truly desired the minimalism and simplicity of life here. Time after time, I asked God, “Why am I feeling like this? Why do I not want to be here? Show me or change me, Father!”
Just days after returning to China from nearly three weeks in the US, I was sunk in these feelings more than ever. The inescapable heat didn’t help either. And just this morning, I fell before God one more time asking Why? In just a few quiet seconds, the thought came across my mind… I don’t really like teaching, and that’s okay. I had to stop and think about that. So I stopped, and I thought about it… Was it true? Was it okay to say that? Could I acknowledge that to myself? Doesn’t everyone think I’m an awesome wow-you-teach-English-you’re-so-special kind of teacher? But then… there was a growing calm. Because… it’s true. And there was not only a beginning of an explanation for all this, but a freedom of being real with myself. I don’t have to love the process of trying to get 60 middle-schoolers to speak a language they don’t need on a daily basis. I don’t have to be crazy about making lesson plans that will fill up the time. I don’t really like teaching, and that’s okay.
There’s freedom in being real, even just with yourself and God. Suddenly, I didn’t feel like I had to force myself to love the moments that I honestly don’t love. And at the same time, I could pinpoint even more strongly which aspects of being here I really do love. I love weekend evenings of soccer with the Tibetan girls. I love studying the languages here. I love developing friendships with my fellow volunteers. I love the smiling faces that wave every time I walk by. For innumerable reasons, I am so, so glad I have been here this year, and wouldn’t change it for anything. But among all I’ve learned, I’ve discovered that while I can teach, it drains me. God has sustained me and will continue to provide, but only because of how hard it is for me have I needed Him so badly. And that is far more than “okay!”
Maybe it’s time for you to be honest with yourself. God knows what’s deep down there; He won’t be surprised. But only when you’re real with yourself and Him can you both begin to work forward from there. You might feel like you’re denying something you’ve told yourself for years, or that you might lose the reputation others had of you. But there is freedom in Christ: freedom to try and fail, freedom to be honest, freedom to figure things out.
I don’t really like teaching, and that’s okay.