Let me tell you a story.
Last Thursday, I had a very bad day at school. You can read about it in my previous post, “Hope and Despair: Reflections of a [Hopeful] Future Teacher.”
Basically, that had a huge impact on my next week. Although I said I would not, I kept being greatly concerned about Professor B’s disappointment, worried that I would fail the course and lose some of my financial aid and car insurance discount, and afraid that my other teachers would also be displeased by my work. It did not help that I had just turned in an essay to Prof. A, had an essay due on Tuesday for another class, had to revise my prospectus and write an essay on which much of my grade depended for Prof. B, and write another essay due the next day for a fourth class. My schedule was: Turn in essay Thursday, work all weekend, turn in essay Tuesday through Friday—and I hadn’t begun to write any of those essays (except the one already turned in).
By God’s grace, the first essay I finished in record time, and despite being too tired to think, it turned out pretty well. Then I hit a snag. I found more sources for my prospectus, changed a few things, and made it everything I need to write my term paper—but because, when I turned it in the first time and thought it was amazing, he lectured the whole class, I was terrified it wasn’t enough. I talked with a couple people, remembering that learning (not grades) is the real reason for school. This talk reminded me that God is in control, and He “works all things for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28). If God wants me to be a teacher, He will get me there in the end; and the path probably won’t look as I expect it to look. If I am following Him and fail a course, it’s OKAY, because He is in control and has good plans for me—not easy ones.
This is difficult for a terminal perfectionist to say and really believe.
I turned in the prospectus, along with an email sincerely apologizing to Prof. B for letting him down, and prepared to work on the essay due the next day. Then I got this email in response from him:
Thanks for your kind email. I thought that all the papers needed improvement, but your prospectus was certainly not among those that I thought were “insulting” or really got my ire. I’ll read and comment on the new prospectus and we’ll go from there. If anything, I’m really looking forward to tomorrow; the revises texts I’ve read so far are substantially better.
All the best,
Needless to say, I couldn’t help but sing praise to the Lord (literally) right then and there (thankfully I was home alone), and my spirit lifted. I was thinking that the Lord lets us experience trials, because they mature our faith (cf. Romans 5:1-5, James 1:2-4), and that what really matters is not our grades or even our circumstances, but the way we react to them.
It reminds me of this passage from Mere Christianity: “[E]very time you make a choice you are turning the central part of you, the part of you that chooses, into something a little different from what it was before. And taking your life as a whole, with all your innumerable choices, all your life long you are slowly turning this central thing either into a heavenly creature or into a hellish creature: either into a creature that is in harmony with God, and with other creatures, and with itself, or else into one that is in a state of war and hatred with God, and with its fellow-creatures, and with itself. To be the one kind of creature is heaven: that is, it is joy and peace and knowledge and power. To be the other means madness, horror, idiocy, rage, impotence, and eternal loneliness. Each of us at each moment is progressing to the one state or the other” (“Chapter 4: Morality and Psychoanalysis”).
Back to my story: I was nowhere near done with the second-to-last essay. Yet I kept reminding myself to trust in the Lord and to not “be anxious in anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present [my] requests to God” (Philippians 4:4-7). Then, I remembered some great news: My morning class was canceled! I could wake up in the morning and finish the paper! God is good!
A couple hours later, as I still had shamefully little done, I looked at the revised schedule for the class—and guess what I saw: On it, the essay was marked as due on the 11th, next week! Oh, the hope that sprung up! I emailed my professor to make sure that was the correct date (the assignment slip said today’s date), and went to bed, feeling as if God was saying, “You trusted in Me. You learned what I wanted you to learn. Now get a good night’s sleep so you can continue doing My work tomorrow.”
This morning, I kept waking up early, freaked out that maybe the revised schedule was wrong and it really was due today. I had set my alarm for later than I initially intended, since I no longer (I hoped) had to finish the essay. It did not help that today is street sweeping day, and if you are parked in the street, you get a ticket, and I’m always afraid my car is still parked in the street, not the driveway (I really really REALLY don’t want another one of those wretched tickets).
After waking up so many times that I lost count, I finally glimpsed the shield with the letters “A.o.G.” that I drew on my wrist to remind me to “put on the full armor of God” (Eph. 6: 10-18). An epiphany hit me: This was not just me not trusting in God, this was spiritual warfare. And I have the power to triumph over the enemy, because God’s Spirit is in me. I said, “Get away from me, Satan, in the Name of Jesus Christ.” Almost before I finished talking, I was in the most peaceful sleep I had all night, and slept until my alarm went off.
So, the moral of the story is two-fold:
1) God is good!!! He looks out for His children. It probably won’t happen in the way we expect or want it to, but He has a perfect plan. He’s often teaching us something entirely different than that which we expect to learn (i.e. I expected Him to teach me how to trust in Him by helping me get my homework done, He was teaching me to have more faith in Him, even when it seems humanly impossible to do what I need to do, and that He always comes through—a much more complex lesson).
2) Don’t forget that it’s not just us and God out there. There’s a spiritual battle going on. Ephesians tells us to “put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.” We don’t by nature have this armor on us, we have to consciously equip ourselves with it every second of every day. In our strength and in our weakness, the enemy is trying to get us to not learn what God is teaching us, to stray from Him and rely on ourselves. We can resist him by the power of Christ. (That’s not to say you should see a demon under every rock; just be aware that we are at war, and sometimes when you keep falling into a certain sin, it’s because the enemy is trying, with his pitiful strength, to prevent a victory for God.)
“I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have peace.
In this world you will have trouble.
But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
~Jesus, John 16:33.