Years ago, a wise teacher offered me invaluable advice. When I bemoaned my failures in the classroom, my impatience, and my inability to portray God as the perfect authority, he clearly understood my lament. Then speaking out of his experience, he offered these wise words: “Those are teachable moments. Our students will also fail in life and we get to model for them what to do when we sin. Humbly acknowledging our wrong and asking forgiveness is how Christ-followers are to live in a broken world.” Then he added, “Often, our desire to be perfect is because we don’t want to humble ourselves and confess. It often stems from our own pride.”
He hit the nail on the head.
But at times it is not clear to me if the regret I feel after a less- than-perfect response is the Holy Spirit speaking to me or the result of an overly sensitive conscience – or perhaps even a spirit of pride accusing me. After all, seeking forgiveness so that no one can think ill of me is based on fear and self-focus, not a “godly sorrow that leads to repentance” and as such can bring no release nor blessing.
So what is the way forward?
When the Lord convinced me a number of years ago that He is far more eager for me to know clearly the way of escape than I am, and that He is not the author of confusion, I begin to simply ask Him to please clarify the matter to me.
After confessing to Him the impatience (or why not just call it anger?) that was in my heart whether or not the student felt it, I find it helpful to simply ask Him whether it would be most redemptive to also confess it to the student. If I insist on a cut and dried approach of “of course you must always do it this way,” I really mess things up because that is not walking in the Spirit. I like to pray something like, “Lord, if I am to confess this to the child, then please bring this incident strongly and continually to my mind. If confessing it to You is all that is needed, then please grant the memory to simply evaporate it into forgetfulness.”
I also ask Him to arrange the setting to confess if that is the path I am to walk. He does honor those prayers. He wants me to know truth and freedom. And I can trust Him! If I completely forget the incident the following day, or if it never occurs to me (even when in retrospect it seems I would have had a perfect opportunity to talk to the student), then I believe He is telling me to leave it. And, yes, I can trust Him!
Other times, He makes it abundantly clear that I am to confess it, and gives me the perfect setting. I love those stories of how in very unlikely circumstances He beautifully arranges a private time with the student along with an inner nudge of, “Now is your time.”
My friend’s advice continues to bless me. Already the third day of this school year, I walked into one of those teachable moments. As I knelt beside the child’s desk the following school day and apologized, I knew again I had an opportunity to model life in a broken world. My failure was a teachable moment.
CONTRIBUTOR: Betty Yoder