One of my new responsibilities at work includes teaching lessons on career development to different classes. All during October we taught different lessons on personality types, life roles, learning styles, and a computer program all the students in the state are programmed to use.
We team teach these lessons by design. It's easier to have a modicum of classroom management with two of us there. I taught half the class time and Karen taught the other. We found that there are some scheduling dynamics that inherently lead to some classes being more well behaved than others. Actually, to be perfectly honest, we wondered if 35 out of the 40 kids in one class had been dropped on their heads as infants and suffered brain trauma. Or maybe their homes contained lead based paint. Bless their hearts.
The instructions we had given to other classes had been well received with only 20% not understanding us. This particular class, and the class right before this one, was at 85% non-comprehension. Of course, it may have had something to do with the fact they were all talking while we were giving the directions. Could. Not. Get. Them. To. Shut. Up. I could have predicted their responses.
Directions went like this: "I am only going to say this one time so pay attention. Go to this website. Click on this link (shown on projector). The site will ask for user name and password. The paper I handed you has your user name. Do not use the school student number. This is your personal number. Your password is this..." Talking continues. "If you have any questions, feel free to raise your hands. We will come to you and ridicule you." I did not say that, believe it or not. It was my colleague. She then gave the go ahead to log onto the computers and follow the instructions not only verbally given but also on the paper each student had on hand. Go ahead.
A chorus rang up, "Now whaaaaaat?!"
By the fourteenth time teaching this same lesson (I kid you not), I refused to say it again. I stood my ground and smiled at them. Smiling was a good alternative to smacking the sides of their heads like Whack-a-Mole. I knew that even if I gave the instructions over again, they wouldn't understand. They had to actually try before I would give them anything else. Most of the time they'd get to the site where they needed login and yell, "Hey! What's my password! What's my user name?!" In fact, the fourteenth time teaching this lesson, I actually did not smile and stand still. My smile slipped and I looked incredulously at the students and screeched, "SERIOUSLY?!"
I could so not be a teacher.
So I finished up the rotation and Scott asked me if I was relieved. I told him I was not. Not that I wasn't glad to be finished with teaching 7th graders career development because everybody knows that 12 and 13 year old kids are just chomping at the bit to jump through more hoops, take more classes, more tests, and add extra schooling to their 13 years of public education. But I simply said to him, "I'm still anxious. I don't know what comes next."
Sunday found me sitting in Sunday School with Scott leading the class discussion on scripture. Somehow the discussion led him to ask, "Why doesn't God always answer our prayers on the first try? Why do we have to keep asking?"
A month ago I had some pat Sunday School answers that involved us seeking humility to be open to His Spirit. I'd been paying attention all these years, you know. I just looked like I wasn't. But on this particular Sunday I thought back on the 7th graders, and more specifically, that really rowdy class. We gave them everything they needed to complete the assignment. We gave them a cheat sheet with their user name and password. We gave them verbal instructions. We called their attention multiple times. Our throats hurt. When they didn't listen, they raised their hands and, even though we promised to ridicule them, we walked to their seats and repeated the instructions that we were loathe to repeat. Again and again and again. But they had to wait until one of us could get to their seats. Often, by the time we could answer their questions, they'd keep one hand up while the other hand picked away at the keyboard or mouse. They'd read their instructions over their shoulder (of the uplifted hand) and their arm would descend. They would soldier forward.
The impatient woman wanted to say, "Read your instructions!" and "Didn't you pay attention?" and "Just get started see how far you get before you ask me anything." But that was my way not God's way.
I feel Him close and encouraging but he doesn't always answer the first time I ask. Or the second or the third. I feel Him and know He wants me to keep asking but at the same time he is waiting for me to get to a certain point before he answers. He's already given the instructions. He isn't going to tell me how to go about every little decision in my life. In the previous example, I already know how to log onto a computer. I can do that much. I know how to get to different websites. Do it. Try a couple of numbers and passwords before He whispers the answer in my ear. How well was I paying attention? Can I apply a lesson I learned three months ago to a situation I'm in right now? If I can't, He'll remind me. If I can, He'll applaud my innovation and growth along with me.
Like the 7th grader, I might forget who is my adversary. The goal of the educator is to train up a child for the next generation. We want them to be the best person they can be. We want to give them all the tools they will need to lead the nation, teach their children, care for them, and make a better world.
Who is my adversary? Is it a kind Heavenly Father, testing me? What an oxymoron to use the words "Heavenly Father" and "testing" in the same sentence! By using the word "testing," we are insinuating the possibility of failure. What parent would choose to test and possibly fail the children we love so dearly?
But what if we were to substitute the word "test" with "train"?
Train up a bchild in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it. Proverbs 22:6.
Why doesn't God answer the first time I ask? Sometimes He does. Other times He waits until the optimal moment of my training. Sometimes I'm just not ready to listen. Sometimes the answer is the figurative equivalent of Moses parting the Red Sea. I couldn't do that. But I'm not Moses. Moses had been in training for many years before parting the Red Sea. Chances are slim to none that He'd ask me to part a Red Sea or sacrifice my son. He might ask me to wander in the wilderness for forty years. Sometimes I wonder if I've been wandering it for the past 46.
How am I doing in my training? Am I doing all of the exercises He's already asked of me? Pay my tithing? Study scriptures daily? Pray? Surround myself with Godly things? I know how to do these things. Maybe these are the things I need to do regularly before He will tell what to do next. I need to get as far as I can go on the instructions I've already received before He will nudge me with more. Then, like my lead poisoned class, I need to stop and listen for the instructions. Do the best I can, make a few mistakes and ask again.
I am in training.