“Oh, God,” I thought.
I’ve been teaching kids for over a year now, and there are good weeks and bad weeks. Sometimes I feel like I have enough to do while whoever is preaching preaches that will keep the kids occupied, and other times I feel like I’m treading water trying to keep the kids drawing and not tearing the room apart.
But when I found out that Anne Lawson—the best theologian I’ve ever known, a woman I call “mom” due to the spiritual role she plays in my life, the sweetest preacher I’ve ever heard, the woman whose words flow like honey, and the woman who never hesitates to tell it like it is—was going to be my helper, I had one thought in my mind:
What if everything isn’t perfect?!?!
What if the kids misbehave? What if I teach the lesson and don’t really extract Jesus from it? What if everything doesn’t go according to plan and the whole thing becomes chaotic?
Stop for a second. Did you ever think about what we’re referencing when we ask “what if?” In this instance, the “if” was about the lesson plan and the “what” was about me. Usually, when we ask “what if,” we are omitting something between the two words. So more appropriately, the question I was really asking was this: “What will my mom think of me if I don’t teach a perfect lesson?” Will she ‘disown’ me? Will she talk about how bad my lesson was? Worse off, will she confront me about it and correct me? (side note: she is incredibly affirming, and I am often more teachable than I think I am, so none of those were rational fears, only the irrational type planted in my mind by the enemy to stir up fear and shake my confidence. If you’re reading this, mom, I trust you.)
I was thinking about this the night before I taught and have been thinking about it since. Here’s the reality: there was only so much of the lesson that was in my control. I was given a story to teach, given the autonomy as to how to present that lesson and what to do, and that was about it. The response of the kids may have been different if circumstances in their lives had been different. But as I was preparing the lesson, the Holy Spirit said, “let Me help you.” That, I believe, was the big difference. No teaching style, no fancy way of saying things, nothing I did accounted for the success of the lesson except the ideas that the Holy Spirit inspired after spending time thinking about and praying about the lesson. And it went off without a hitch – there was no dead time, the kids participated, and when it came time to do coloring sheets, they were quiet as church mice (which, believe me, is not normal.)
This got me thinking about how heavily I rely on myself about things, and caused a verse to pop in my head today—2 Corinthians 12:9, when Paul shared what God told him concerning his infamous “thorn in the flesh,” that His grace was sufficient, and that His strength is made perfect in weakness. Being a wordy guy, I looked up what “weakness” meant in this context and the translation is weakness of the body or the soul, incapability of doing great and glorious things. Usually the word is translated as “infirmity,” synonymous with “flaw,” “defect,” or “fault.” Check, check, and check—I have plenty of those! I am plenty incapable of doing great and glorious things, especially when I teach, which is something that, outside of Sunday school, I’ve not done at all!
That’s the arena in which I am learning to trust the grace of God – the things in which I simply don’t have experience or expertise. Introducing myself and building relationships are two things I am poor at. I’ve had plenty of people extend themselves to me and initiate the building of a relationship, but as a son, I’m at a stage in my growth where this is the type of thing that God is calling me into – meeting people, getting to know them, know their stories, and give myself to them for whatever it is worth. And I have no experience, and I am unspeakably afraid, but mostly of what people think. “What if I’m awkward? What if I don’t know what to say?” Such are the questions that are in my mind, but the Bible tells me—through Paul’s experience—that God is sufficient where I am lacking and insufficient.