Friday, July 3, 2009

Teaching Middle School and an Exhortation

So as my profile says, I spent this past year teaching Italian to some great middle school kids. Recently, it was the last day of school and I had some closing comments for each class that I taught (six in all).

The first thing I did, after taking care of collecting textbooks and textbook fines, was apologize and ask for each class's forgiveness for my sins in thought, word, and deed. I confessed to them that there were times that I was wrongfully frustrated, angry, and lazy, and that that was selfish and did not benefit them. I told them that, though most people say they "did the best they could," usually that's not true, and it certainly was not true of me. I could have done better. And so I asked them to forgive me.

And the spokesmen for each class said they did. So that's good.

The next thing I told them was that I wasn't going to be back, as I'm moving to California to begin attending seminary. Some of them immediately asked what seminary was, then wondered at how I'd be a priest if I was married. And so I clarified that I was going to be studying for pastoral ministry and that a pastor is different then a priest. It was actually some great conversation that I hope bears fruit.

Many kids wanted me to sign their yearbook, which I totally loved and was humbled to do. After a personal message, I signed each one: "Don't Waste Your Life: 2 Corinthians 5:15." And that led to some good explanations as well. I even had the opportunity to open a Bible with one of my students and read and unfold the text with him.

And finally I gave them my email address and the address to this blog. So hopefully they're reading this! Welcome guys! (Or, maybe I should say: Benvenuti ragazzi!)

But I wanted to share with you part of an email that I got from one of my students, and then my response to it.
...I enjoyed all of your comforting words, and your smiling face around lunch. I'm gonna miss all the times in Italian and all the jokes we had. You have taught me a great deal this year. I hope you are successful in California. I read your blog... I never knew there was this whole other side of you! But your wisdom shows. :] ...
You might see why this student was one of my favorites. ;o) Here's how I responded.
Thanks for your kind words. I'm glad they're true. I count it all grace from God that He was pleased to take a selfish sinner like me and use me to comfort, encourage, and teach kids like yourself.

About not seeing the other side of me... yeah... it's a shame it has to be that way, isn't it? Much of that is my fault, and not speaking more openly about the Savior, as He is my life. Really, if people don't see that side of me, they don't really see me. But the sad thing is, our government misinterprets the Constitution's provision of freedom of speech and religion, such that if I was to talk about my faith in Christ during school, I could be fired and maybe worse. Isn't that twisted? In one sense that shouldn't matter to me (Acts 5:28-29). In another, I try to follow the rules that are set before me (Romans 13:1-2).

But now that school's out, I can speak freely without coming under the accusation that I was trying to force children to believe what I believe. But even though this side of me couldn't show through very much, I hope it showed through in my attitude and actions... at least somewhat. All of the "good" things I did, all of the comfort that you describe, any time I was smiling, anything profitable that I taught you, it was because of Jesus. He gets the glory for that, not me. It's important to me that you know that.

And yet, I'm far from a good example of Him. As I mentioned today, I did things that were wrong. I said things that were wrong. I was sinfully angry. And I can't blame anyone but myself for that. That's not how a Christian acts. That's not how Christ would be with students. And so that's why I asked for your (all of your) forgiveness. Being a Christian or even a pastor doesn't mean that someone is perfect (1 John 1:8). Far from it. It means that when one's imperfection is made known to them, that they admit that they're wrong and they ask forgiveness (1 John 1:9).
Not the perfect answer. Not by a long shot. But I pray that God blesses His Word, even the Word I've spoken to my students (Is 55:10-11).
But one exhortation that we can all receive from these thoughts is that we should strive to keep our behavior excellent among the Gentiles (1Pet 2:11-12), to be the light of the world and the salt of the earth (Matt 5:13-16). But when we fall short of excellence, when our light flickers, and when we're not as salty as we ought to be, let us remember that what restores our witness and what glorifies God is neither pretentious rationalization of sin nor good behavior to make up for it. Rather it is confession of our sinfulness, repentance, and the asking of forgiveness to those whom we've sinned against.

So rejoice! The Good News for saved sinners who still harbor indwelling sin is that the Christian life is about direction and not perfection. Though ever pressing on toward the goal for the prize for the upward call of God in Christ Jesus, God does not blot us out in the absence of our absolute perfection! Praise God!

So in our imperfection, let us present to the world -- by God's grace -- what humility and poverty of spirit look like, all to His glory among the nations.

He who conceals his transgressions will not prosper,
But he who confesses and forsakes them will find compassion.
- Proverbs 28:13 -

Blessed are the poor in spirit...
- Matthew 5:3 -

...that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.

- Matthew 5:16 -

I will cleanse them from all their iniquity by which they have sinned against Me, and I will pardon all their iniquities by which they have sinned against Me and by which they have transgressed against Me. It will be to Me a
name of joy, praise and glory before all the nations of the earth which will hear of all the good that I do for them.
- Jeremiah 33:8-9 -

1 comment:

smoothieqeen808 said...
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