When Your Best isn’t Good Enough

My sneakers pound the black belt of the treadmill. Faster. The speed picks up. Faster. The voice whispers again. I push harder. The treadmill picks up speed and I break into a sprint to keep up. Faster. Longer. Better. I gasp for breath but my sneakers keep pounding.

I blink and I realize it’s not the treadmill that’s pushing me – it’s me. Do more. The voice whispers. Be more.  Everything begins whirling as I frantically try to gain control and keep up. But it all goes faster and faster. Keep going. You’ve got to be better.

And as I try to keep up, I begin to wonder – when did I have to start being the best at everything?  The perfect student, the perfect teacher, the perfect friend, the perfect Christian? The girl who outwardly has everything together and knows exactly where she is going in life? The girl who can never slip up?

I am constantly running, trying to be faster, better, stronger. As exhaustion sets in, I grit my teeth and push through it.  My students need me. My family needs me. My church needs me. To admit I can’t do it all is weakness. To share my struggles with someone else makes me look needy. But I’m supposed to be the person who has it all together- weakness and neediness are not options. And so I push – harder and harder. I will be the best. I will succeed. And I will do it on my own.

And the treadmill spins out of control.

I fall down. Hard. Embarrassed. Glancing around to see if anyone witnessed my disgrace. The voice that urged me on now cruelly sneers at me. Way to blow it. What a failure. Did you really think you could be good enough? Now look what you’ve done – you’ve ruined it all! And I sit there on the cold ground as the treadmill keeps going beside me. But I’m not on it. And I wonder if I’ll ever be back on it.

Maybe I have failed in an aspect of my classroom management. Maybe I missed the deadline. Maybe I disappointed my administrator or my students’ parents. Maybe I let down my own family.

But as I sit there humiliated in the stillness, a kind voice calls to me. Come unto me and I will give you rest. Give me your heavy burden and take mine instead, for it is light, and you will find rest for your soul.

Tears stream down my face as I pant heavily. No, Lord, really, I can do it! Just give me another chance! I’ll try harder. I’ll do better.

 Daughter, you can’t do it. And that’s okay! You were not meant to be able to do it — to bear this burden of perfection. I have already borne it for you. I have taken it off your shoulders yet you insist on fighting me to try and take it back. Be still. Be still and know that I am God (and you are not!).

And it hits me – I am not God.  I am not perfect. I do not have everything under my control.  I can’t be enough for my students, their families, my family, and my church. I can’t meet all of their needs.

But God is  enough for them – and for me.  I just have to step back, slow down, and trust Him with what I can’t do.

So when my best is not good enough – when I fail? By God’s grace, He will help me to stand back up. He will put me back on the treadmill…but He puts His hand over the controls. He is the One who is going to set the pace this time. He knows what I can handle with His help.

He is not disappointed that I can only do a 2.0 mph pace instead of the 8.0 mph that I want to do.

He allowed me to spin out of control to bring me back to the point of dependence on Him. He knows that other than Satan, I am my own worst enemy!

It isn’t His voice I hear telling me that I am a failure. His voice is whispering,

I have loved you with an everlasting love…

Nothing shall be able to separate you from my love…

And knowing that God’s love for me didn’t change because I wasn’t good enough today? Well, I can face anything if I know that He still loves me! Back when I accepted Christ as my Savior, God knew I would fail. He didn’t adopt me into His family because He knew what an amazing addition I would be! He chose me, knowing full well all the ugliness and messiness I would bring along with me!

How thankful I am that I serve a God who rewards faithfulness, not perfection.

For the righteous falls seven times and rises again… (Prov. 24:16A)

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Asking the Expert

“How do you help a student get organized?”

“How do you help a student struggling with reading comprehension?”

“How do you help a student who can’t stay in their seat?”
“How do I get play dough out of the carpet before my custodian finds out and kills me?”

What did teachers do before Google?

Seriously, I don’t think I go one day without Googling something.

I am so glad that Google does not judge me for some of the rather….well, dumb, things that I ask. Because I ask a lot of questions.

When I am not on the internet surfing for answers to my myriad of teacher questions, I am hunting down the other teachers in my school and asking them question upon question.

How would you handle this?

What would you do in this case?
What do you think?

I love getting answers. I love the feeling of implementing something that I learned to hopefully solve a problem I am facing in my classroom.

One day, I realized that when I have a question, my default is to Google it and begin to pick other teachers’ brains around the world.

Now that is not necessarily a bad thing – asking questions from those who know more than we do is a very wise course of action! In fact,  Proverbs encourages us to listen to others instead of relying only on what we know!

The way of a fool is right in his own eyes,  but a wise man listens to advice. (Proverbs 12:15)

However, I realized that my questions always drove me first to “the experts” rather than to THE EXPERT.

My first response should be to take my question to the One who created and knows both me and my student.

After all, where better to find answers?

My God wants me to come to him with my concerns and issues. He isn’t so busy taking care of world affairs that he doesn’t have time to “deal with” my problem of a class that won’t stop talking. He isn’t going to scold me for taking up his time for something so “minor” in the grand scheme of the universe. He tells me to come to him. He tells me to ask. He promises that He will give.

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. (James 1:5)

I want my default to be that I take everything to Christ first.

Before I jump on the internet, pull out my college textbooks, or grab the ear of a colleague, I want to first start on my knees. Praying that God would…

  1. Give me Wisdom – wisdom in choosing the proper way to deal with the situation. There are so many ideas out there – I need wisdom to choose the methodology or solution that would be most helpful to my student.
  2. Help the student that is struggling – That He would encourage the heart of that student who is academically behind. That Sarah would realize that her value is in Christ and not her GPA. That little Johnny would be able to stay in his seat. That through these struggles, these students would be drawn to love Him more and realize their own need of help from Christ.
  3. Give wisdom to others involved in the situation – that He would help parents know how best to help their child. That administration would have wisdom in making decisions that could affect this student.

Those behavior issues? Yes, I will probably still ask others for advice…but I will first pray that God would work in that student’s heart. That neat Pinterest behavior modification idea may help…but without prayer for a changed heart, all I am doing is helping to mask the symptoms of that student’s sinful heart.

Those parent issues? Sure, I will use that great communication idea found on a blog…but first, I am going to pray for my own heart in dealing with that family. That I would be loving and Christ like in the way that I relate to them. Then I am going to pray for those parents – that God would give them wisdom in raising their children and that they would also have the correct responses in the face of conflict.

And when I get to see God answer those prayers and work in powerful ways, I will know that it is not because I am such a wonderful and clever teacher. I will know that He graciously listened to my request and worked in ways that only He can work.  I will know that He directed me to that idea to help my student who struggles with reading comprehension. I will know that He worked in my heart, my students’ hearts, and their parents’ hearts. I will know that He is the one who deserves all the praise.

So I am not finished asking the experts, yet.

But I do want to ask the all-knowing, all-powerful, and all-loving Expert first.

Praying this year that “the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him” (Ephesians 1:17).

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