The beginning of the year is such an exciting time. New materials, clean classrooms, fresh faces, renewed energy—it is all so inspiring! We always start the year with high hopes. However, if you’ve been in education for any length of time, you know a typical school year is riddled with ups and downs, twists and turns, and sometimes a significant amount of drama! I don’t know why this seems to catch us off guard. While it is important to maintain a positive outlook, we also have to acknowledge that we live in a fallen world filled with flawed human beings. Turmoil comes with the territory. Nevertheless, it is possible to successfully navigate a typical year so we can experience a great sense of purpose and accomplishment!
How? It’s an inside job!
Before we delve into what I mean by an “inside job,” let’s first look at the opposite—“the outside.” It is the outside which often distracts us. Outside influences aren’t unique to the field of education. Every profession has its own distinct pressures. However, what sets education apart is dealing with young lives day in and day out; this can elevate pressures to a whole new level. Think about it this way. Every day teachers are expected to…
· manage the behavior of at least 20 children who have differing needs and personalities;
· actively engage students, ensuring learning has taken place;
· teach new and changing curriculum standards;
· communicate effectively with parents and colleagues; and
· be exceedingly flexible because things seldom go as planned!
None of these can be ignored. All are important. However, the degree to which we successfully navigate these outside pressures is determined by the work we do on the inside. Having been in education for many years, I know how easy it is to become obsessed with everything going on around me and ignore my inner self, my spiritual self. Trust me, I am speaking from experience when I say, dealing with the external without strengthening the internal leaves us weakened and vulnerable. The sense of purpose and accomplishment we are seeking often gives way to frustration and defeat.
The school year is just beginning, so let’s start out right! There are two things we can do immediately to navigate a successful year from the inside out!
SEEK and SAY YES!
But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Matthew 6:33
There isn’t much to interpret in Jesus’s command. Our priority and His provision are clear. Seek Him first, and He promises to take care of our needs. The term seek is a powerful word. To seek is to pursue, to crave, to strive after, to be active and purposeful. The object of our seeking is not the ongoing outside demands of life but an internal desire to become more like Jesus. This should be our first and most important priority. As the familiar saying goes, “We have to keep the main thing the main thing.”
Over the years I have come to believe that seeking also involves growing as we spend time in God’s Word and approach Him on our knees. Allowing God to do his work on the inside will be reflected on the outside. We can know we are seeking when we…
· trust God to supply and refuse to worry.
· talk to God first before making a decision.
· replace anger with patience.
· choose to love those who are unlovely.
Seeking His kingdom as our first priority will undoubtedly propel us to the next step.
SEEK and SAY YES!
What if each day, before our feet hit the floor, our prayer was, Lord, show me your kingdom purpose today, and do your work through me! I am ready to say, “YES!”
Every day has purpose. I can remember driving to work so many days and going over the long list of “to-do’s” in my head. Lysa Terkeurst recently tweeted, “Whatever we focus our attention on the most will become the driving force in our lives. We steer where we stare.” I know as educators we have to focus on our work in order to do our jobs, but I also know God’s kingdom work can happen simultaneously. Seeking His righteousness involves looking for opportunities to say “Yes” every single day. It could be as simple as speaking to someone in your building whom you haven’t acknowledged for some time, or it may be more involved such as offering to pray for someone in need. God will open doors if we will be obedient. When our “yes” becomes action, we change on the inside.
But whenever someone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image. 2 Corinthians 3:16-18
Saying “yes” means positioning ourselves for God to do His work through us. Notice we can’t change on our own. The inside job (spiritual transformation) is only made possible by the Spirit’s work in our lives as we bear fruit and grow in the knowledge of God (Colossians 1:10). Don’t let outside pressures prevent the inside work from taking place. Keep the main thing the main thing and say, “Yes!”
Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children. Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God. Ephesians 5:1-2
Do you want to look back on this year with a sense of purpose? SEEK!
Do you want to look back on this year with a feeling of accomplishment? SAY YES!
Navigating a successful year is an inside job!
Just in case you need a reminder, I decided to assign some homework! Make your own sticky note and place it where you can see it throughout the day!