2013. I ate the elephant.

Well, its a new day, apparently a new year, and as cliche as it is… I really am feeling the sense of new beginnings in 2014. I don’t say that because there is a new digit at the end of the year date today, or because I’m supposed to have some fancy new year’s resolution (life can become new at any time of any day). I say that because I am coming out of the gunk and ashes of a year that has taught me much about how messed up I am, and how desperately I need Jesus to help me!

Life’s lessons are rarely learned during times of bliss. Usually the big lessons come in the form of something that you’d rather avoid altogether. For me (Molly) student teaching was one of those times. The weeks contained in 2013′s September through December was like getting chewed up and spit out over and over again was a great learning experience. For starters, I had to give up being around the campus ministry and people involved in it almost altogether. Before I started, I was supremely overconfident in my abilities to successfully teach every kid for mastery. I was sure that I could balance student teaching, campus ministry/starting a prayer furnace, family, church obligations, (oh yeah, sleep somewhere in there). By week three, I was so exhausted/whipped/ground down/done with life that I was sure I would never recover, much less become a teacher or even complete student teaching successfully. This was going to be much harder than I thought.

They say the only way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time. This was like doing that. Only I was a flea that didn’t even have a mouth big enough to take a bite, and whenever I did manage one, got swatted off of the beast, and had to climb all the way back onto its back and try to get another bite in. I know I probably sound crazy, but that’s kind of what student teaching felt like for me. Even though I made progress, it felt like literally nothing had been done to get me any closer to finishing. In fact, progress felt like a kick in the head with the elephant’s tail of exhaustion and despair. All I could do was try my best to hold on, learn from the ride, missing my friends in ministry and barely seeing my family/sleeping when I could.

Then it hit me. I saw (past tense… because remember that there actually was a lesson learned here) the everyday and mundane work as meaningless. Therefore, everything I did at school and at home seemed meaningless. I saw ministry as only being ministry when there was a title. “I am a campus minister, I’m in charge of this and that ministry, look at me, aren’t I important to the kingdom??” Therefore, as I worked my butt off to teach kids about grammar and not hitting each other, it seemed to me like I was doing something less important than that “ministry” thing that I did before. But wait… isn’t that completely upside down?

It took me a semester of excruciatingly hard work in a classroom and a lot of missing hours of sleep to see something of paramount importance. And I didn’t see it until the last day with my students, walking one of them back from the principal’s office. I had sent this particular student there because he was being a little jerk his behavior was inappropriate all day. On the walk back, he was continuing to give me trouble. Finally, I stopped, faced him, and in my most exasperated voice I asked him what in the world his problem was! (not my finest moment) He started to cry, and explained to me that he was mad at me because I was leaving and never coming back. Wait, what?? This child, this little “trouble maker”, who had made many of my days exceedingly difficult to teach without interruptions, was crying because I was LEAVING? That stopped me in my tracks. In fact, I began to cry with him. Right there in the hallway, we let loose some of our most frustrated and heartfelt tears together. I looked him in the eyes, my own wet with regret for ever even being annoyed at his presence, and told him that I was so thankful for him. That he was important. That I gave him a hard time because I cared too much about him to let him have his way. That I knew he could succeed. That I believed in him. And he told me that he loved me and would miss me. This little second grader who had given me so much grief over the last seven weeks was now showing me the difference I was making all along.

I realize that not many teachers will have the privilege to hear the impact that all their long hours and hard work has made. But I got to hear it straight out of the mouth of my most difficult student. He is worth every long hour. Every moment I felt insignificant for missing the big campus events, the chances to speak as a “minister.”

This “little troublemaker” helped me to see that every word, every failed lesson plan, every successful lesson plan, every smile, every interaction I had with those kids and my colleagues, EVERYTHING was changing the course of their lives forever. Everything I do is important to those around me. Everything I do is ministry. Everything. Every. Little. Small. Tiny. Thing. Even if it does feel insignificant to me, it is of paramount importance to someone whose life I am touching.

Don’t get me wrong, college ministry is important and amazing and I love it. But I finally see that I don’t need to be doing something that is labeled “ministry” for it to minister to others. Cleaning toilets can change the world. So can giving a hug to a little troublemaker.

I think this sums it up quite nicely.
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Here’s to diving into every mundane thing with joy and thankfulness. Here’s to a new year full of opportunities to bless.

Love you all xo,

MollyImage

Have a goodbye 2013 post to share like Molly? Or maybe a hallelujah 2014? Send it to us at wnyLifeTogether@gmail.com

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