As I have mentioned in the past, I am a public school teacher. I am a North Carolina Teaching Fellow, and unfortunately for me, I also am a quiet, small, introvert. Those qualities- unchecked- have proven to be the bane of my classroom management.
The 1st half of 2015 was the worst out of all the time I have been teaching, but the 2nd half was not the same. This year, God chose a challenging set of circumstances, the right person, and an awkwardly funny (but true) statement to force me to reflect on what I value most- God’s view or society’s view of who I am- and it all began in January of 2015.
The new semester was coming which meant so were new students. I went into the semester feeling refreshed and excited but by the end of the 1st day I was crying with dread for the rest of the semester. My 4th block. It was a difficult group of students- individually they are wonderful, smart, capable, and hilarious- but together, it was straight up rough. It also didn’t help that I was worried about what they thought of me. On that 1st day I walked in and immediately felt self-conscious, scared, and like I wanted to hide in a hole somewhere. Of course, in this case, the old adage about 1st impressions rang true. I had already made mine which meant I had already lost the battle- how I presented myself reflected how I felt.
Needless to say, I had a bad semester. I tried everything and nothing worked. I couldn’t figure out how to deal with this class. Then, the last week of school, someone told me straight. It hurt (at the time) but it was true and it was necessary. It forced me to check my heart and mind. The testing coordinator at our school looked me right in the face and told me I needed to work on my confidence. Her wording went something like…when I walk in the room I need to look like I own the place, with “shoulders back, chin up, and boobs out” even if I didn’t feel confident, I had to act it. I laughed in the moment and cried at home.
I cried because my feelings were hurt. I cried because I was frustrated because I didn’t know HOW to be confident. I cried because I didn’t understand why I felt so hurt. She didn’t say it mean. She didn’t say it to hurt my feelings. She said it to truly help. So I cried. In this confusion and hurt, I cried and I turned to God and scripture. I looked up scriptures that might help my confidence and almost the 1st one I found struck me deep into my heart.
Psalm 139: 1-18
“God’s Omnipresence and Omniscience. For the choir director. A Psalm of David.
O Lord, You have searched me and known me.2 You know when I sit down and when I rise up; You understand my thought from afar. 3 You scrutinize my path and my lying down, And are intimately acquainted with all my ways. 4 Even before there is a word on my tongue, Behold, O Lord, You know it all. 5 You have enclosed me behind and before, And laid Your hand upon me. 6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; It is too high, I cannot attain to it. 7 Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? 8 If I ascend to heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there. 9 If I take the wings of the dawn, If I dwell in the remotest part of the sea, 10 Even there Your hand will lead me, And Your right hand will lay hold of me. 11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will overwhelm me, And the light around me will be night,” 12 Even the darkness is not dark to You, And the night is as bright as the day. Darkness and light are alike to You. 13 For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb. 14 I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, And my soul knows it very well. 15 My frame was not hidden from You, When I was made in secret, And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth; 16 Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; And in Your book were all written The days that were ordained for me, When as yet there was not one of them. 17 How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God! How vast is the sum of them! 18 If I should count them, they would outnumber the sand. When I awake, I am still with You.”
These verses focus on God being all-knowing and all-present but it also shows that His human creations, our lives, an dour being saved (or not) is part of His focus. Verses 17 & 18 hit home the most. As soon as I read them I started bawling again. That was my problem. I was more concerned about how others viewed me that I was distracted from seeing how God views me. I knew He loves me, but these verses and my circumstances brought them to live in my heart and mind. The God that created this body, the world around me, the planet, the solar system, the UNIVERSE- for goodness sake- that SAME God values US enough to think of us and known our actions, our thoughts, our hearts…to know me.
The light bulb exploded on in my mind. That was the point- snot and tear-covered, huddled in my bed- that joy and contentment began to rise in my heart.
Once the school year ended, I took the summer to recuperate. As soon as the school year was over I almost immediately began to dread having to face another set of students- but I began to practice what that wonderful woman told me and daily reminded myself that the only person’s opinion of me that matters is Christ’s. I began to practice improving my posture, letting go of the memories of that terrible semester, and focusing on the Lord.
So far, this school year with my students has been incredible. I have been able to be my crazy, ridiculous, nerdy, weird self. My students think I’m nuts (but they also respect and take me seriously). Even though this year hurt to go through it, I am grateful. I am grateful to see improvements in my career. I am grateful for people being willing and kind enough to be honest with me and challenge me. I am grateful that in the year 2015, God chose to teach me 2 of the most valued lessons I will ever learn:
- When I walk in a room, act like I own the place, with “shoulders back, chin up, and boobs out.”
- If my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, is glorified in the things I say and do then nothing and no one else’s opinion of me matters.
Happy New Year and here’s to more lessons in 2016. God bless.