This semester I spent some time teaching teenagers. I’ve taught at home school co-ops for years, and I’ve taught all ages. Normally, I like teaching. Sure, kids can be difficult, but by the end of the semester, I usually walk out of the classroom with a few relationships under my belt. I convince the rowdy ones to slow down and work on art (I teach art or writing most of the time.) I’ve had conversations with a few about their writing desires or their art dreams. I am known as a good teacher, and kids like me.
Ding ding ding. Yep. That old pride bell goes off. I admit it–I like knowing kids like me. It makes me feel good.
This semester I had none of those rewards. Very few of the kids acknowledged me as more than a teacher, and for the most part they glared at me from their seats as though offended I was wasting their time. Two students, maybe three, ever had a kind word and considered me a human being. I spent hours preparing classes that nobody seemed interested in sitting through. They took selfies instead of doing art and talked instead of writing. Epic levels of disrespect, every single week. Longest semester ever.
I know in my heart that my identity comes from God. I know He alone gives me value, and I know He values me a lot. Blood, agony, tears value. Nobody on earth has been valued the way I’m valued, me and my fellow siblings in Christ. We are loved with unimaginable love.
However, what my heart knows, the rest of me doubts sometimes. I don’t want to be sensitive to other people the way I am. That trait helps me as a writer–sometimes I can see below the surface. But sometimes I’m simply paranoid and create things below the surface that aren’t there. But regardless, sensitivity is part of me. And those kids this semester were doing some serious damage to my sensitive soul.
I’ve been told I need to develop a thicker skin. I don’t know how to do that. I know I want to trust only God for my value. I do. But the steps required to get there have me stumped. And I don’t know if thicker skin is the answer. When I can express the fullness of human emotion in my writing, I think thin skin might be helpful.
When I face scowling teens who would rather be doing anything in this world other than listening to me, I want skin so thick nothing can penetrate it. I want all their laser eye beams to hit and deflect, but too many get through. They pierce and hurt.
When I look at the news and watch my own nation grow less and less tolerant of my life, more and more lost, I want that thick skin, too. But I also need a soft heart, because those people matter. They’re adrift. I need to want to rescue them. Unfortunately, when faced with those who hate God and my beliefs, that thick skin pops right out. They need rescued, but I don’t want to rescue them. They need compassion, but I long for justice. I defend God mightily, my armor on, my weapons out.
A human is a strange and complex creature. Lately the Spirit is making me aware of the layers of me. Sometimes I need thick skin. Sometimes I need a soft heart. Sometimes I need reminded of my value. Sometimes I need reminded that God can take care of himself, and he would prefer compassionate children over wild warrior children.
Knowing how to react to situations, how to respond to people, when to jump in, when to back off, when to love, when to fight–He can help me with that. I can be honest. I haven’t always been honest with God. I’ve tried to be perfect all by myself. But the layers of me are too crazy to figure out. I’m tired of trying.
It’s time to let Him help me. Toss the complexity of myself at his feet and let him guide me one step at a time. This year I’ve seen Him come through. I’ve spoken in groups, when that isn’t my thing. But it’s His thing, some moments, for my words to be heard. I’ve prayed out loud, when that isn’t my thing, either. But some moments he wants to hear my voice call to Him on other people’s behalf.
You have as many layers as I do. Maybe more. I’m going to try to remember that, too, when I deal with you. We’re not flat and simple. We’re vibrant and fluid and hard to decipher. But God understands and loves all the layers of his children, and He wants to use them to get His things done.
I think, in a few weeks, teaching won’t be my thing for a while. Either the Spirit will let that decision lie, or he’ll call me on it and bring me back. But whatever He does, I hope to listen to Him and not my pride. I hope to remember where my value comes from. If I can let Him define me and guide me, I can do anything He wants.
Usually I keep my fiction life and blog life fairly separate, but this week I have a promotion running where one of my ebooks is a free download at Amazon. If you have a Kindle or Kindle app, go check it out. The book is Swamp Rats, a clean/sweet romance for teens and the young at heart (Honestly, most of my teen book readers are adults). It’s one of my trilogy that isn’t explicitly Christian, but it’s fun, filled with adventure, and clean. Follow Princess and Cree, two kids in a swamp, as they grow up, fall in love, and avoid alligators. (Click here to get to the Amazon site. And thanks for putting up with my PR paragraph here!!)