Faith that Works

Teaching middle schoolers how to live and practice their faith

Each year his parents went to Jerusalem for the feast of Passover, and when he was twelve years old, they went up according to festival custom. After they had completed its days, as they were returning, the boy Jesus remained behind in Jerusalem, but his parents did not know it. Thinking that he was in the caravan, they journeyed for a day and looked for him among their relatives and acquaintances, but not finding him, they returned to Jerusalem to look for him.

After three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions, and all who heard him were astounded at his understanding and his answers. When his parents saw him, they were astonished, and his mother said to him, “Son, why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety.”

And he said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” But they did not understand what he said to them. He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them; and his mother kept all these things in her heart
Luke 2:41-51

When I was in college, my niece was about three years old, and one of the cutest kids you will ever meet. She had a great imagination and loved to play. When she would get mad, she would find herself a quiet place to calm down and play until she was ready to interact with people again. One day, i remember my sister coming into my parents’ kitchen, completely frantic. My three year old niece was missing! We searched for what seemed like hours, and were getting ready to start calling others to help when we found her: she was peacefully sleeping underneath my sister’s bed!

One of my biggest heartaches in teaching has been the students I have “lost”. These are the students who for one reason or another leave my class throughout the year, or worse yet, stay in class but are never really “there”. A few years ago I had a really challenging student who I loved, but was so desperately angry that nothing I said could have any impact. I spend so much time and energy wondering what I could have done differently, and often times am left feeling empty, anxious, and like a failure.

A verse from First Corinthians has helped me with these feelings of anxiety and failure. Paul writes, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God caused the growth.” (1 Corinthians 3:6) There’s something freeing about knowing that I am only a small step in the teaching equation. I plant, the students water, but God causes the growth. And sometimes seeds can lie dormant for many years before flourishing into beautiful plants. My students are cared for by a God who sees the lost from a long way off and is moved by compassion. (Luke 15:20) All I have to do, like Mary, is be faithful to my role in God’s plan.

My prayer today is for all the students we’ve “lost” along the way. I pray that they would find the things that ignite their passions and lead them to Christ. I pray for the teachers who feel discouraged and anxious, desperately looking for the answers to the problems they face in their classrooms. I pray that we would trust like Mary, and keep our students in our hearts, trusting that God will cause the growth.

Questions for reflection:
What in my life is causing me great anxiety right now? How is God present in this situation?
Who are some students I have “lost” during my years of teaching? Pause to offer a prayer for these students.
How is God calling me to trust more in my work and personal life? What is God asking me to surrender so that he can cause growth?

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