It was a Wednesday evening at prayer meeting.
Wednesdays are loooong days of the week for me. Many times I drag myself into prayer meeting feeling a little more dead than alive. By that point, my hair has fallen limply out of its curls. My make-up didn’t survive the day, and I probably have a large pen mark on my shirt or skirt.
My pastor had us open to the book of Proverbs that night…to a chapter and verse I am sure that I have read before. It was never a verse that had really stuck out to me, though.
Where there are no oxen, the manger is clean, but abundant crops come by the strength of the ox. (Prov. 14:4)
It just didn’t seem like the verse I would have prettily scripted out in calligraphy on scrapbook paper and stuck to my bathroom mirror.
But as my pastor read Proverbs 14:4 that night, I found myself perking up and smiling instantly. It described me and my classroom perfectly!
The verse essentially teaches that if you don’t have any oxen – you’ve got a really clean barn…but not much productivity. On the other hand, if you have oxen, you’ve got more of a mess, but you also have a huge blessing in the help that they can be.
Sooooo, I wouldn’t say that my classroom is quite as messy as the barn mentioned in that verse…but…some days it can be pretty rough. Pencils everywhere (except in a student’s hand when we are starting a spelling test – then there is nary a pencil to be found!). Little snowfalls of pencil and eraser shavings are sprinkled around individual desks. Tiny pieces of paper litter the ground. Can we all just admit that kids are messy? They track goose poop all over your carpet when they come in from the soccer field. They mess up your perfectly organized classroom library. They don’t turn in their homework and make you chase them down for it. They get in fights with their friends. They whine. They tattle. They go CRAZY the week before vacation.
Their parents can be pretty messy, too…they forget to sign those forms; they stop to talk to you at inopportune moments; they forget to send their student with that special item needed that day. Sometimes they are upset over an issue, and that can be messy to deal with, too.
But for all of my students and their families’ messiness, their teacher is just one big mess, too.
You see, as my pastor pointed out that night – ministry is messy.
I get frustrated when I expect it to be otherwise. When I expect my 18 kiddos to sit perfectly and understand long division the first time I explain it and never forget their lunches and love each other and never disagree and be fully engaged in listening to my voice for about 35 hours a week…well, needless to say that my expectations get dashed within the first 10 minutes of a Monday morning!
Sometimes I think about what it would be like to work in a job where things aren’t so messy. I look at all of the sweat, heart, and soul that I pour into teaching and guiltily think that there has got to be something easier out there to do.
And you know what? I know there are easier jobs out there… but there aren’t many jobs that have this kind of return investment.
Just as that farmer would have a much easier job cleaning the barn if he didn’t have any oxen, I feel that sometimes I could be a great teacher…if it weren’t for the kids 😉 Yet, those oxen are worth the mess to the farmer because of all the benefits they bring to him.
And my own little messy classroom is worth it. I may get to see glimmers of the benefits this year in my class – that smile, note, or sweet words from a student or their parent. I have the opportunity to see how God is using my messy students to work on my own messy heart. But only when I cross into eternity will I get to see the true returns on my investment. Only in Heaven will I get to see the lives impacted and changed.
Maybe it won’t be hundreds of students that I have impacted…but if I can help even one child love Christ more and choose to serve Him, wouldn’t it all be worth it for just that one child? One changed life?
And when I stand before Christ to lay any rewards at His feet, I am not going to be thinking of all the messiness involved in teaching – the frustration, long hours and stacks of grading, the difficult students or parents. I am going to be praising Him for His faithfulness in helping me to steward my messy little piece of earth in a 3rd/4th grade classroom in Charlotte, NC.
I am going to thank Him for how he took a perfect mess and turned it into something so perfectly glorifying to Him.
Ministry is messy, but it’s worth it.
O Lord, you are my God; I will exalt you; I will praise your name, for you have done wonderful things, plans formed of old, faithful and sure (Isaiah 25:1).