or The Confusing Downside of My Otherwise Blessed Life

The life of a teacher can be isolating. OK, the truth is I’m a relatively new empty nester.  The birds have flown the coop.   Everyone was home for Christmas and now they are all gone along with their sundry pets, and it’s awfully quiet around here.  For twenty some years there has been loud noise, music, barking, singing, drums, electric guitars, and fighting.  I never had to worry about friends because they came attached to my kids, their school, and our church.  I always longed for more peace and quiet and now I have it and it’s kind of boring.  I’m feeling lonely.

As a teacher I find that I have many acquaintances but not as many close friends any more.  First of all, I haven’t got as much free time and second of all I’m held to a different standard.  “Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers; because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.” (James 3:1, NIV)

Another thing about being a teacher is that sometimes you let people into your lives in very personal ways as you share about yourself in public.  I may use illustrations or tell stories on myself.  People may feel they know a lot about me.  But, I don’t feel a part of their lives in the same way.  They haven’t just told their most intimate thoughts to me like I’ve shared with them in my talk.  Also, my forte is self-deprecating humor (or so I’ve been told). But, while people like to laugh at my stories about myself, I think sometimes they go home and replay it in their mind and perhaps judge me for being so crazy, bad, or whatever.

On the other hand, since I’m always focused on what other people are thinking, feeling, or needing to hear, I occasionally say very awkward or presumptuous things.  I am sometimes too familiar with people because, after all, I’ve been focusing on their life, in a manner of speaking, throughout my whole week of preparation.   I feel as though I know them in a way but they don’t know that.  (I realize I just said that I didn’t know them but even though I don’t really know them I have to try to know them if I’m going to speak God’s word to them—it’s very confusing).

If what I say is used by the Holy Spirit in someone’s life, then they have the feeling that I know something about them-maybe something that is troubling them.  I don’t.  God does.

I found that before I was a teacher in the church I had a fairly nice social life.  Now I am only invited if I throw the party myself.  Except of course for official functions and then I’m expected to come even if I don’t really want to and I’m expected to know everyone’s name, even if I can’t remember them.  And I’m expected to be able to chat with everyone like the social butterfly I no longer am.

The same is true for the teacher (or pastor) who tries to be a member of a small group in the church or a Bible study they don’t lead.  We all occasionally hold back in a discussion in order to allow everyone to participate, that part is normal for everyone.  But when you are “the” Bible teacher, if you share, it can shut down the discussion because people feel you know the “right” answer.   Being part of a small group  that I’m not leading can occasionally feel like walking on a tight rope though I have to say, if I keep quiet, I love hearing what other people say.

I used to love to read the Bible as a way of listening to God speak to me.  Now I often find that I read the Bible as a way of finding out what God wants me to say to others.  Not always, but pretty often.   Every funny story or inspiring movie becomes a professional story or illustration.  It’s kind of like when you take a lot of pictures and you start seeing the world as pictures.  You’ve seen people who hold up their fingers to form a square and then use it as a make believe camera view finder.  A Bible teacher is always looking at the world for relevance and meaning.  Nothing ever just happens, there is a purpose and maybe that can be filed away for future use. God actually graciously puts things into my life at exactly the right time in order to give me illustrations, I think.  Coincidences are always God-incidences.

A funny thing happened to me this week-and it has happened before.  I asked God to send me just one friend that I could be real with.  A mature believer that I didn’t have to “mentor”.  Somebody I could be honest with.   The very night I prayed, an old friend contacted me on Facebook and we go together after like ten years of not seeing each other.

Even with the minor frustrations that accompany being a Bible teacher I can honestly say that God is faithful all of the time.  Maybe I’ll talk about that next time.

To him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy—to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.” (Jude 24–25, NIV)

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