Teaching has always had its challenging moments. Amidst wanting the best for my students, there have been moments during the past five years when I’ve gotten frustrated, lost my temper, yelled, even belittled. Kids can be tough. And every adult has their bad days. I’m sure every teacher and parent can empathize.
Recently, however, I realized that I had fallen into a rut. I had lost something. I had slowly become hardened. I had lost my love, compassion, and affection for my students. And that realization broke my heart.
A few months ago, I realized I had become disillusioned. Most foundationally, I was disillusioned about love.
Love is a core of the Christian faith. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself—those are the two commandments with which Jesus summed up all that God requires and desires of us. Love. The very thing I felt I could no longer do.
I tried. Of course I tried. But deep down, at the gut level, I just didn’t believe I was capable of loving people anymore. I didn’t have anything more to give. I had run out. My heart had shut down.
When God showed that to me, I cried a lot. But an immediate solution wasn’t evident. I wasn’t even sure I wanted to ask Him to restore that capacity in me. That was how tired I was. I just couldn’t walk any further. But God told me that was okay.
Just sit, He said. Go to sleep. When you wake, things will be different.
Resurrection of Love
When I chose my theme for 2018: Year of Love, I was not excited. The only reason I got excited about this theme was because I realized it was going to involve receiving. God was going to woo me with His love. I still wasn’t excited about giving. But the truth is, we have nothing to give until we receive. So I guess that was okay.
However, much sooner than anticipated, my focus has already turned outward. I assumed this year would be a lot about me. God loving me. Me loving myself. Most of my life, I haven’t put myself first, so I assumed this year would be some of that.
Instead what I’ve found is that God loving me and me loving myself has naturally overflowed into me loving others. It has all been wrapped up together in an organic, fluid transformation. God has been breaking my heart afresh. And I couldn’t ask for anything better.
Yup. Blow-ups at minor offenses. Impatient dismissals of students’ attempts to connect. Resentment of students’ lack of motivation. I looked at myself and saw anger, tiredness, and resignation.
He reminded me of my first year of teaching. A year of stress and tears and feeling overwhelmed, but also a year I fought incredibly hard to LOVE. I was crystal clear in my purpose as a teacher: to love the kids as best as I could. And some of them pushed me to my limits of patience and kindness, and I failed left and right, but I also fought every day to be the kind of teacher and role model they deserved. I fought to show them they were valuable, capable, and worthy of love.
Remembering, I realized how far I had fallen. And all I could do was cry. I sobbed. I let my heart hurt. And I asked God to make me like Him. “God, make me like You!” I cried out. What else could I do? More than ever I realized my powerlessness in that moment, my incapability to make myself good. So I asked Him to help me.
The day after this realization, my attitude was different. I could feel a difference in my classes, and that gave me hope. But the journey didn’t end there. In fact, it’s still ongoing.
Again and again, God has been breaking my heart for my students. In short, He has been softening my heart of stone and turning it into a heart of flesh. I guess it shouldn’t surprise me that this, too, requires a process.
The hardening of my heart happened slowly over the past few years, for various reasons. And recognizing its hardness wasn’t enough to change it. The restoration of my heart is also happening slowly.
Yet this is God’s promise to me: This year I am restoring your love.
Part of my heart died. A great deal of my compassion died. And I have been mourning that death.
Yet at the same time, I hold to the promise that the death is producing something beautiful I could not have predicted. Just as a dying plant releases seeds that produce a multitude of plants, the death in my heart is producing greater love than I have known before.
“Unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.”
– Jesus (John 12:14)
My love died, but it is coming back to life. It is coming back as a stronger, deeper, more mature, and more abandoned love than ever before.
That’s crazy. And wonderful. And I just wanted to share that with you, because what God is doing in me is the same miracle He is capable of doing in all of us.
God has an amazing way of taking our brokenness and turning it into something beautiful. It’s something only He can do, and He’s in the business of doing it. In fact, it brings Him quite a bit of delight.
He can turn our cynicism back into hope. He can strengthen the feeblest of hands and restore innocence. Through His process, we become stronger, purer, wiser, more joyful, and more loving than we would have thought possible. It doesn’t happen by running away or pretending or trying harder. It happens when we turn to Him and let Him tenderize our hearts. So let’s let Him in today. Today, if you hear His voice, don’t harden your heart. Let it break instead.