The pumpkin spice display in the grocery store, complete with a cardboard poster featuring Box Tops for Education, was a jarring reminder that summer is quickly drawing to a close and a new school year is beginning. And as that realization dawned on me last week, I was…well, I was a little less than thrilled.
To be honest, I felt completely overwhelmed.
Tired (yes, already).
Regretful of decisions I made last year that kept me from giving my best.
Worried that this year won’t be any different.
Discouraged that I’m not nearly as good as all my teacher friends on Facebook or at my school.
So, like many single twenty-somethings daughters would do, I called my mom to vent. After she listened patiently and made a few wise comments, I talked with my Heavenly Father then rediscovered Psalm 34. I hope it’s as encouraging and focus-directing for you as it was for me.
I will bless the LORD at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth. (v. 1)
It starts off demanding a complete turn-around in my perspective. This year, regardless of how heavy or light the workload seems, no matter which students are in my class, even if I get every sickness that goes around the school, Jehovah God is still worthy of praise! Right now, whether I feel overwhelmed or like I have everything under control, my God is sovereign, and He is directing my steps.
Every day, my first and foremost purpose is to praise, bless, and glorify the Lord. When I start the day praising Him, my attitude will be different. I’ll see my God instead of my problems. I’ll have His joy and peace and thus be better equipped to share them with my students, coworkers, and all those I come in contact with. When I remember that my ultimate goal is to please and magnify the Lord, I won’t get stressed and bogged down when lesson plans don’t go as planned, when management techniques fail–instead, I’ll look for ways to glorify God in the way I respond to each situation.
So I will purpose this school year to bless the Lord from the inside out each and every day.
My soul shall make its boast in the LORD; the humble shall hear of it and be glad. (v. 2)
This statement really hit home for me. My boast is not in my bulletin boards. It’s not in having the coolest lessons, smoothest classroom management, or best decorated room. My boast is in my Savior, Creator, Father, and Master. He is the One I want everyone to look at, His are the works I want to draw attention to–not me and mine.
This is the kind of boasting that gladdens others. Calling my coworkers’ attention to the Lord encourages them; by bragging on God with my mouth, attitude, and lifestyle, I can lift their eyes to the One who has called them and will be faithful.
When we boast in ourselves and our accomplishments, we automatically put down others and their accomplishments. Teachers are always looking around at other teachers for ideas and inspiration, which is helpful, but while looking around, we can be easily tempted to compare ourselves to each other. If we consider another teacher to be less skilled than we are in a specific area, we can begin to feel proud and self-satisfied; if we deem them to be better than us, we may get overwhelmed, frustrated, or just give up trying. Either way, our focus stays on ourselves–not on our students and certainly not on our God.
However, when we remember “that we are [not] sufficient of ourselves, to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is of God, Who also made us sufficient as ministers” (2 Corinthians 3:5-6), then we are confident without being cocky, boastful in a God Who deserves all praise, and fellow-Christians who are walking with us rejoice as we worship our God together by doing what He has called us to do.
Which is exactly what the next verse says:
Oh, magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt His name together. (v. 3)
My life should shout this phrase.
This should be my call to my students this year. Yes, I am excited to see them grow in their reading and writing skills, to see the lightbulb come on for new math concepts…but my God has told me that my main goal is to help them exalt His name with me. Whether through deliberate Bible lessons and devotionals, by pointing out His power, wisdom, involvement, creativity, mercy, order, and love demonstrated in the academic areas we study, or helping my students learn to use their new skills for His service, my purpose is to help them magnify the Lord.
And the same goes for all my relationships: coworkers, administrators, parents, and friends–the words I say and the way I live my life should lift up my God and call them to join me in doing the same.