And He said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. – Mark 16:15 ESV
For several years now, there has been a television commercial that only airs in August which I have found to be rather humorous. It is for an office supply store advertising their “Back to School Sale.” It features two children trailing behind a shopping cart, dragging their feet with the saddest expressions they could muster. Contrasting their sorrow is their father, who is gleefully dancing around the store, tossing school supplies into the cart as they play the song, “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year.” In spite of its age, I must admit that I still laugh as much today as the first time I saw it. But to be completely truthful, I can see both sides of that equation.
As a teacher, I often found myself conflicted in August. Like the parent, I was excited about the promise that comes from a new school year: new classes, new students, improved methods, greater skills, and an enthusiasm that comes from doing what I was called to do. But on the flip side, the start of the school year also meant an end of vacations and the return of early mornings, meetings, and a ten month stretch featuring long days, longer to do lists, short attention spans, and shorter levels of rest and patience. This internal struggle would eventually subside, but it often led to a simple question: Why am I here?
I think at one point or another, every teacher questions their effectiveness. Test scores and student confusion can lead us to frustration and doubt. Many teachers take it personally when their work and sacrifices are lost upon students, parents, administrators and colleagues who would rather heap criticism than shoulder burdens or offer solutions. Long hours, low pay, personal attacks, and a general lack of respect for the profession are just a few of the things that make teachers of every subject and grade level question the logic of serving in a classroom.
So why are we here?
Over my career, I’ve been in dozens of different schools. One school in particular, Spiritus Sanctus Academy, a Catholic elementary school located in Plymouth, Michigan, provided the best answer to the question. As you walk in the main entrance you will see a sign placed prominently outside of the office which reads…
“Be it known to all who enter here that Christ is the reason for this school. He is the unseen but ever present teacher in its classes. He is the model of its faculty, and the inspiration of its students.”
What a clear and beautiful description of why we are all here. God created us in His image, but our sinfulness created a divide between man and its Creator that can only be closed by the love of the risen Christ. So while we might teach four year olds to read, eight year olds to multiply, and sixteen year olds to do research, we must never forget that our true ministry comes from teaching everyone who enters our rooms, our schools and our presence that peace, joy, forgiveness and love can only come from Jesus.
After all, THAT is why we’re here….