Today’s commentary is more personal. If you would rather find something about the shutdown or the debt ceiling, you won’t find it here today. Now’s your chance to go elsewhere before you read any further.
Okay, too late—you must now continue.
Professors are people, too. Sometimes we get discouraged. Even those of us who are doing this as a ministry and sense the call of God on our lives to teach can, at times, wonder what we are accomplishing. Although I think I’ve learned over time that there are natural rhythms of peaks and valleys, the emotions can still threaten to take over during those valleys.
I’ve been valley-bound for a couple of weeks. It hasn’t affected how I teach in the classroom; when I’m there, I fulfill what God has given me to do with a whole heart. But I’ve been going away from my classes with an underlying sadness. It’s hard to tell right now whether anything I’m saying gets through, or if it has any meaning for the majority of the students.
I hit my deepest valley nearly a decade ago when I wondered if I had missed my calling. I began to search out other options besides teaching, but everywhere I turned, doors closed. Gradually, the Lord touched my heart again with the encouragement I needed, and I remained a university professor.
Encouragement has been a crying need lately. It has come.
The other day, while slowly trudging (that’s how it felt) from my car to my office, I ran into a colleague who said he had just been to a student panel on writing. One of the students thanked me for my historiography course because it taught her how to write effectively. She noted that I was a tough grader and didn’t accept errors in the writing. She said she was grateful for that toughness.
Needless to say, that lifted my spirits somewhat. But that was just the beginning.
Yesterday, a student who had taken the first half of American history with me, stopped by my office excited that she could now take the second half as well. She had changed majors and now the rest of American history was required for her. In her previous major, she had no room for it. What struck me was her joyous demeanor; not only was she looking forward to it, but she is recruiting another student to register for the class as well.
Then, last night, I got an e-mail from a former student who was inquiring about a book I had mentioned when he was in the second half of American history. That he had an interest in a certain book I had referenced was fascinating, particularly since this was a student who had struggled to pass my class. I knew him as a friendly fellow, but I had no idea he would remember my mention of a book. What arrested my attention the most, though, were his final comments. He wrote these words of encouragement:
May the Lord continue to bless you and be your rock of support this semester. Continue to allow Him to use you through the knowledge He has given you about history; it’s a real blessing to all of us students, even if, at times, it doesn’t show. I can honestly say, after taking your class, that history is definitely my favorite subject out of all the subject areas I have studied.
Frankly, I was floored. Was he reading my mind? How did he know what I have been going through? But of course that’s not it at all. The Lord is the One who knows the heart and the mind of His children, and He’s the One who directs others, often without their realizing it, to speak the right word at the right time.
The Lord also directed me back to one of those Scriptural passages He has used in the past to keep me on track. It’s found in the sixth chapter of Galatians:
Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary.
I will take that to heart today.