As a teacher, I have grown immensely over these past 8 years. Maybe it’s because it was not my first choice as a profession, that I did not come into it with the brazen confidence I had as a 22-year-old college graduate, proudly toting my Bachelor’s in Business Administration degree.
I felt as though I had come in the back door of the classroom with my alternative teaching certification and was, somehow, less qualified than those degreed in education. So I walked tenderly each year, reflecting on mistakes and missteps, trying to realize that if students didn’t grasp a concept it might just be that I didn’t make it clear.
And that’s exactly what I saw in the eyes of a child last week. Only this time, “unclear” looked different. It wasn’t a look I was prepared to face.
One of God’s gifts to me has been the ability to read people, and in particular, student’s body language and expressions as I teach. Looking into their eyes while I explain, scanning the room for that pair that is either under the furrowed brow or even locked in a far off gaze.
That is when I typically pause, rewind and find a new way to say the same information.
Until last week. The look I saw was not, “I don’t get it,” or, “I’m not even listening, but actually off in another place.”
This was one of complete and total, disappointment and disgust.
And, since this was not the most structured lesson in my small class of 4 students, I decided to take the time to wander to this young lady and see how I could help her.
She had assembled and stapled, labeled and glued all the parts of the layered book on fractions that I had requested. But now, she had come to realize that she is two layers short of the example that I had place under the Elmo projector and she had no where to write the final parts.
And I realized that I had made a mistake in managing the materials and didn’t hand out enough paper to each student. After all, I had just created the foldable the day prior.
So I began to back peddle and apologize. I had told her, and all my students, that I am not perfect and I will make mistakes. Somehow, I miscounted, got distracted… for whatever reason, she was right.
And typically, in this class, she is the one to catch many of my mistakes.
So I told her that it was ok. This could be fixed. The foldable didn’t have to be perfect and certainly didn’t have to look just like mine. I gathered some more paper, handed a new page out to each student and came back to her side.
As I announced to the whole class my error, I used her foldable as a sample of how we could attach another page. The rest of the students seemed to be fine with the fix.
But not her.
She still had that look of disappointment on her face. It’s not a sad look. More of a harsh, “I cannot believe you let me down,” kind of look.
And I continued to scramble to come up with the best help I could to appease her and make this all turn out better. I even made her the offer of a whole new set of papers and told her that I’d even fold and assemble it and she could do the rest. “It’ll be brand new, just like mine, ” I told her.
Nothing. No reply.
Finally, silently admitting my defeat, I decided to move on with my lesson and get about the day. There would just be no way to please her. But the shadow of her disappointment lingered on my heart.
The next morning as I drove into work, planning the day in my mind, praying over each student and asking God to equip me with all that was needed for the day, I was struck with the image of my girl’s face. I could see her sitting there with the foldable in her hand and the words hanging like a cartoon bubble out of her mouth, “You did it wrong. You disappointed me.”
And God spoke to me, “That is you, Lisa.”
What? What could God mean by that? How could that be me? I don’t typically tell other people they messed up. I don’t give harsh stares and stubbornly refuse to forgive “less-than-perfect” behavior.
He continued, “That is you, talking to yourself. “
And it hit me hard. She is a picture of my perfectionism; unwilling to allow less than exactly the image projected in my mind.
Once again, I begin to cry on the way to work. “God, I thought I was done with this. I really want some mascara today…. Please.”
But He is SO very right.
I am so hard on my self. I never feel as though I have gotten anything quite right. And even when it seems easy to tell someone else, “It doesn’t have to be perfect,” those words don’t seem to truly convince me either.
Which is why I’ve become the Perfect Procrastinator. If I don’t feel as though I’m equipped to start and finish a task exactly as I have it pictured in my mind, I’ll just put it off until I feel ready. Which ends up being never.
Good thing God is not that way….. Jesus would either never have come to earth…yet. Or He would have lived to be an old man and not gone to the cross.
And then we’d still be living by those 10 Commandments and heading up the hill with our sacrifice each week.
Thank You, Lord, for grace!
Thank You, Lord, for Your obedience and quickly going about the plan without contemplating it!
Please, Lord, give me enough grace for my inner self. Let me forgive my own mistakes and lack of perfection. Let me pursue new things without fear of failure or disappointment… even from my own self.
Lord, let me try the new, open the door to step out in faith and realize that there will be times that I will make mistakes. But You never promised that I would be perfect and there is always more paper for me to add layers to my book.
Who knows, I might even create something better than I imagined…
….in my weakness
….for Your glory!