Monday, March 18, 2013

Gospel Challenge Right at Home

My wife is a school teacher. She teaches seventh grade English as a matter of fact, something people continually "bless" her for when they find out. It is her calling in life. I believe that as strongly as I believe in my own. She's also very good at it.

I remember when she got her first job, how excited she would be to come home and plan for the next day. She was able to engage creatively with the curriculum and really help her students connect and learn. She was very good at getting kids to enjoy something that is, quite frankly, pretty boring.

As time has gone on, however, the "experts" have prevailed and each year it seems they're asking teachers to do more and more outside of actually teaching. They've also seen fit to take most of the creativity out of the job. I don't need to get in to all the issues here, but teaching is much more an assembly line these days that the art it was a mere six years ago.

It might help prop up those teachers who are over-matched by the job, but I see how dismal and frustrated it makes so many good teachers. I've often encouraged my wife to do something else. We can't afford a drastic change (she makes most of the money), but if things are just not fun anymore, I keep suggesting she do something else.

She won't, though. No matter how terrible it gets. She just won't. She's got a calling. She gets up at 5am every day to be present and available for students, especially those who don't have anyone else looking out for them. It's not just about the job or the teaching, it's an opportunity to make a difference. No matter how toxic the educational environment might get, she's going to be there for the students.

I,too, have a calling. Specifics aside, it's basically a calling shared by everyone who claims Jesus Christ as Lord - to love people and help make the grace and peace of Christ more evident in the world.

When compared to my wife, I'm just not sure I have the same commitment to the call on my life. I often get discouraged and give up when things go poorly. I'm not saying we should stick out every sticky situation - some things just aren't that important - but I do think the gospel is pretty important.

We live in a society - and every day I recognize how completely formed I am in this aspect of our culture - that teaches us to take the easy way out. It's not part of our history or our political speech, it's not part of our collective identity, but it is a part of our collective reality. From game shows to lotteries to reality tv - we're obsessed with getting something for nothing. Perhaps its our hyper individualism or our innate desire for hope in the midst of difficult times - but it is who we are.

It sets us up for failure. Few of us will ever be independently wealthy, which is the ultimate goal - to be in a position where we don't have to do anything we don't want to do. There has to be something more out there. Of course, as a Christian I believe there is - something much better. Except, most of the time, I sort of just expect it to happen. Christianity teach us that, too - if we just hang on long enough God will bail us out.

In the end, I suspect, God is going to have to do something. It's tough to believe we're ever going to get things right. At the same time, God left us a pretty big mission - God left us the whole mission. We are to love each other and somehow that love will transform the world.

But it's not easy.

Loving people and being involved in people's lives gets messy. Working for peace and justice is offensive to some, downright evil to others. I'm going to make people mad - which often seems counter productive. I know I don't always have the right balance between compassion and challenge; I am a bit of a weakling when it comes to resolve. But I am eternally thankful to have a true gospel example in my own home each and every day - someone who pushes me to be better and stronger and more true to the life God has called me to live.

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