Five thirty am comes early but usual for school teachers. A buzzing alarm clock promises no possibility of punching the snooze button, not even once. This morning was exceptionally early, as it was her assigned morning for bus duty. Six-thirty am and she is already dressed and in her car placing the extremely cold gear shift into reverse, inching out of the apartment complex parking lot into the dark; foggy; cold morning. She sighs as she begins her journey; knowing her roommates were still nestled snugly in their warm beds. She’s a teacher and students don’t wait.
She drives down the dark deserted road looking heavenward as she questions why this year was so difficult? It seems that while her teaching strategies seem to improve, the students, no those little children, seem to be more difficult, but their difficulty is not in their ability to learn. Their difficulty comes in the way they are loved. Broken homes, broken hearts – and for so many of her students broken other things.
God, could there not be just one year full of happy homes, happy hearts and happy everything? Could this be the year of no blackened eyes, no bruises, no broken hearts over unborn siblings being “donated,” and many of her students being unwanted themselves? No hunger and a year that every child has an eight o’clock bedtime with a fairy tale being read to them as they drift into a peaceful sleep? Just one year?
Her eyes fill with grief, tears spilling warmly down her cheeks. She once again questions aloud, “God, just one year?”
As she continues to drive into the darkness of the early morning and into the school parking lot. She reaches for her beautifully initialed teacher's bag full of work done “after hours,” turns the off the ignition, and opens the door. A most whimsical, joyful sound greets her on this early morning.
“Good morning Miss Smith!”
How could all of this child’s brokenness instantly become joy at the sight of her face? “What did he see?"
She mumbles this question to herself and again looks heavenward. “How do I transform myself in a 20 minute grief-filled car ride into a face that brings joy to my hurting students, and especially this one?”
The following day, her routine begins as usual, except it feels darker and colder. After driving a short distance, she reaches for the radio dial and puts on her favorite station in a frail attempt to brighten her day. Yes- her favorite 1970’s music is playing, “We are Family,” by Sister Sledge, this time, however, she doesn’t feel the need to burst out in driver seat dance and tone-deaf lyrics that this music usually elicits. It somehow feels empty, and then, the words of her younger sister come to her memory. “When you drive to work I want you to listen to a really good podcast.”
She turns on the programed podcast and the pastor begins to speak. As she turns the car down the road which always promises to be the darkest road, God-inspired words echo from the podcast pastor’s mouth to her heart:
“And to the teacher out there… those students this year are placed in your classroom by God.”
Tears of lament begin to flow down her cheeks. At that very moment, God whispers tenderly to her heart, “It is not a career, it is a call.”
Those transcending moments each day on a cold dark ride and to a school parking lot snap into focus. Those moments that turn the brokenness of students into greetings of joy, are moments of God’s love and tenderness flowing from her life. So, on this morning, like every other morning, she reaches for that initialed teacher's bag and turns the ignition off. But something is different. Yes, her tears have erased her freshly applied make-up, and her recently painted-on smile is now smeared and tear streaked. She has a smile across her face… etched by the Hand of God. She opens her car door and the very next words sum up her “why” God has her at this school.
“Good morning… you look beautiful today.” The same brokenhearted student calls out on this day, just like every day; but, today she realizes he has been referring to her heart and not her freshly applied make-up. The heart that heeded the call from God to teach.
Ah, to know that you do not teach, but you reach with God’s hands to the very students ordained to be in your classroom, yes, the appointed little Children of God; and to know your words that instruct are inspired to be spoken to such as these, and the feet your students follow are actually, to not only to lead out in education; but to lead them out in God’s love. Yes, you are a teacher by profession but that pales to the Truth; that you are Called by God.