For a number of years, I used the Character Sketch books as a basis for our devotional time at school. Each month, we focused on a specific character quality. Throughout the month, we learned interesting facts about animals that display that quality while we also memorized Scripture, poetry or songs to go with the quality. I sought diligently and unwaveringly to translate this study into everyday shoe leather so they could understand and actively seek to grow in that area.
A crucial word in the sentence above is “they.”
I carefully chose to study qualities like diligence, orderliness, and responsibility, all easy ones for them to practice in the school scene. The students loved the stories, songs, and poems and eagerly anticipated the next one. Regularly, we would talk at length about the definition, discuss how it looked in daily life, and I even helped them set individual goals on how to apply the qualities. I tried so hard. And yet, it seemed my investment yielded little fruit. They didn’t seem to get it. I felt discouraged.
Note the pronouns in the paragraph above, and how they are positioned.
And then one month the Shepherd spoke to me about my focus. He invited me to think about how I could be growing in those same areas. I have forgotten which character quality we were focusing on at the time He reproved me. I have also completely forgotten the specific steps He showed how I could practice that character quality of the month. But I have not forgotten what happened.
My focus changed. We still delighted in the animal stories, sang our little songs, quoted the Scriptures, and talked lots about how the traits look in everyday life. But now my own focus was first on how I was participating in the work God was doing in me. I prayed, listened, and practiced, a bit like we today deliberately practice procedures in the classroom. And something happened.
Suddenly one day I noticed students voluntarily talking about how they were practicing the quality at home. I also began seeing fruit at school. The change was obvious. I can almost remember where I was standing when the lightning bolt struck home.
I got it. I understood the connection.
When I, their leader and mentor, intentionally walk in sync with God’s work in me, when my heart is turned toward Him in tender and teachable ways, then somehow, in mysterious and intangible ways, it impacts those under me.
Although that is the first time I remember consciously making that humbling connection, I frequently continue to take note of this phenomenon at work in life around me.
Each time, it reminds me that I can only truly teach what I live.
CONTRIBUTOR: Betty Yoder