Teaching 8th grade has given me more than enough material for a book. Everyday I have a story, and this week has been no different.
For my students’ project this week, they are supposed to be writing about historical happenings from when they were in middle school. I explained the directions to all 3classes the same way, or at least I thought I did, but one class took this assignment a different direction. As I walked around to see what the students focused on-Obama’s election, natural disasters, laws that had been passed-I didn’t see any of these. I saw a passage about the Black and White Ball, a dance the 8th graders had this year. I saw a story about a teacher falling when she slipped on some food in the cafeteria during lunch duty. I saw a paragraph about receiving a detention. When I stopped and asked the girl with the detention paragraph why she wrote about this, she said, “Because it was my first detention.”
“How is that a historical happening?”
She looked shocked. “Uh, it was a pretty big deal in my house. I got grounded for, like, ever. It was historical to me because my social life was seriously affected.”
And with that, I explained the directions again, though I did let them keep their personal historical happenings as part of the assignment. I mean, who was I to crush them by requiring them to think of the world outside themselves more than the world within their 8th grade social lives?
I do most of my thinking in the car, so as I drove to pick up Wren I pondered the sheer selfishness of a group of kids who could turn events in history to events in their history and honestly think it is the same thing. I mean, I love these kids, and I do blame myself for a misunderstanding in the directions, but really? And even after the directions were explained, most of them still viewed their event as the most important one. It affected them, period. I was glad we had less than four weeks of school left.
My self righteous I’m-older-therefore-know-better attitude did not serve me well a couple of days later when I realized I was worse than the 8th graders. As I prayed later that night, God really gave me the ability to listen to my words. I prayed for Wren, Dennis, CC(our name for baby number 2 till we find out the sex). I prayed for opportunities I was hoping would open up for me. I prayed for no more nausea and that the junk food I was consuming would not affect my unborn child’s brain development. I prayed for weaning to be easier for Wren. I prayed for guidance on a million different things I was seeking answers for and for protection from a million different things I didn’t ever want to experience. Then I started drifting off to sleep. Before I was completely out, I remembered Wren’s daycare director and that her daughter had recently been paralyzed in a car accident. I threw up a quick prayer about that. Then I remembered a woman in the business I work on the side has a daughter close to Wren’s age with cancer, so I sent up a quick prayer about that. Then I remembered the nurse at my endocrinologist office who told me the story about giving birth to her twins who were dead when she was five months pregnant. The list kept going on and on in my head, but I was tired. I had spent my early, quality, awake prayer time on myself and my needs. I fell asleep without getting to any one else.
The next day I went online to my usual news outlets. I saw headlines about bomb victims, hunger, murder, all the usual. I skipped that depressing stuff and clicked on a link to see if I could find any spoiler information about the Lost finale on Sunday. Who wants to read about people starving when you can get the latest scoop on Jack, Sawyer, and the mysteries of the island? Yeah, I actually lacked that much self awareness.
When God did let me start getting dealt with, it wasn’t good. I do pray for other people, but the ratio of how much I pray for my loved ones and myself versus other people is not good. Maybe 50:1. I hate that others suffer, but the sun is shining in my world. I don’t want to suffer; I don’t really want to be affected by suffering. That requires your feelings and heart being open in a way that actually makes you hurt for other people. I can cry at a Huggies commercial, but I won’t watch the news all the way through because if I do it’s real, and then I get to feel bad for those people on the news for the rest of the day. I don’t want to feel bad. And I need to pray for those people I know are suffering. But when do I have time for all that?
I read a quote once, and of course I can’t find it now, but it was from a man who said that a day where less than 10 hours is spent in prayer is a waste. If I were to pray for 10 hours, my child would starve, we would have no clean underwear, I would have no job therefore no place to live, etc. But I still don’t think the quote is irrelevant. What if I reprioritized my prayers? What if I prayed truly for God’s will for me, my loved ones, and others, and what if I actually remembered to daily pray for people I probably at one point said I would pray for? What if I didn’t say, “God, I’d really like this situation to turn out this way, so please work out the logistics for me” and instead said, “I’m trusting You to know what’s best for me, and praying you make me smart enough to follow what You show is best for me”? What if I didn’t spend time looking for Lost spoilers and instead spent it praying? What if it wasn’t all about me?
That was a fear with this blog. When I first told Dennis about this blog idea, I shared with him my fear of it becoming about us to the point that it was too self absorbed to be anything else. The point is to make this a focus about the Lord and what we learn and are shown through Him, not just about us. If it ever stops being what we originally focused on, I don’t think I’ll be able to do it anymore. But I think focusing on Christ, not me, in prayer, in writing, in raising our children, will help us focus on Christ in everything, and that’s when you get to the good stuff. Focusing on Christ helps you focus on others, and that’s what I need to obviously do more of. It’s time to look at the happenings outside of my own little world.
So, the historical happenings fiasco may be the best thing that came out of the jungle called junior high the last four weeks of school. The students always teach me more than I teach them, but this lesson will last long after they leave. Maybe they will take some of the lessons I taught with them, but if their social lives haven’t been “seriously affected” by my teachings, then it may have all been in vain.