I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating – I stink at math. Numbers boggle my mind, and just for the record, letters ought never be included in a number sentence! Hello?? That’s why they call it a number sentence! But, I digress.
Even though the trauma of solving mathematical equations requiring higher-ordered thinking skills made my life as a student most miserable, those same struggles helped me be a better fifth grade math teacher. I comprehended the empty look behind young eyes trying to make sense of the garbley-gook on the board. I could relate to not even knowing enough to ask a question. And I SO understood not wanting to go to the board to work a problem in front of the whole world! Consequently, I vowed that the three most terrifying words for me as a struggling math student would NOT cause the hearts of my students to melt in fear. Those three words?
I hated those words because my math teachers never seemed to understand how I got my answer unless I got it the same way they did. They didn’t seem to get the fact that not all of us are created to be accountants, financial advisers, loan officers, engineers, chemists, or physicists. Some of us think with that other side of the brain. I wanted my students to think of the showing-your-work thing as a way of letting me see inside their brain as they thought about the problem. If I could see things the way they saw them, then maybe I could help them figure it out. I wanted to go on the mental journey with them, not have them go on mine. It was an adventure for both of us.
I was compassionate toward those who struggled with math, however show me a child who couldn’t understand the difference between a noun and a verb and I’d show you a kid who wasn’t paying attention! How could they not understand something so simple? Red ink abounded on essays with poor grammar. After all, I had taught it so clearly. How could they miss it? As a result of that kind of attitude toward these strugglers, I was a pitiful language arts teacher! While my compassion thermometer showed a fervent fever during math class, arrogance quickly chilled it to zero during language arts.
I recently realized I’ve been just as schizophrenic with spiritual things. For example, my arrogant, language-teacher self used to read 1 Peter 3:15 this way: “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” The focus was on giving an answer. Knowing. Doing. Getting it right. Arguing over theology.
Now however, my inner math-teacher reads it this way: “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” I have hope because of Jesus. He is the matter of first importance. I not only want to see inside His mind, I want to possess it. It’s His love. His joy. His peace. His patience. His kindness, gentleness, faithfulness, and mercy. It’s Him growing all these things in me so that no one can argue with my transformation.
Now that my eyes have been opened to the freedom and grace found in Jesus alone, it feels as though I’ve started all over. Every verse and every fact radiates a different hue. Even though God’s words haven’t changed, I have. I filter everything now through the eyes of grace, and it has shown me that I’m not saved because of what I’ve done, but what He’s done; and that has made all the difference! I’ve learned that not everyone thinks about life the same way I do, and that’s a very good thing!
I’ve been frustrated for some time now about not being able to express this freedom I feel. After all, words are supposed to be my thing. But, I’ve decided I’m in pretty good company. Listen to what Peter and Paul had to say,
“Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” (1 Peter 1:8)
“And in their prayers for you their hearts will go out to you, because of the surpassing grace God has given you. Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift.” (2 Corinthians 9:14-15)
Some things you just can’t understand until you experience it. That’s my prayer for all of us; that God will overwhelm us with His inexpressible joy because of His indescribable gift.
Dear Lord, help us realize we are on a journey toward eternity. Overwhelm us with our own stories of Your love and faithfulness. Help us learn to be compassionate with our fellow travelers as we try to see things from their perspective rather than insisting they see ours. Lord, with these three little words we ask that (for us, in us, and through us) You continue to