Spend and Be Spent

I wrote a couple of weeks ago about how during his visit in July Seth and I decided to get matching shield tattoos and how I’d also read 2 Corinthians every day – mostly with him. Paul kinda rails on the church in Corinth through the letter, but in the middle of chapter 12 he tells them, “I will gladly spend and be spent for your souls.” That verse resonates with me deeply for different reasons.

When Seth came back at the end of this month, we had a wild week with a baptism and then new tattoos just before he left. For Seth, the tattoo has a lot of significance as part of his commitment to follow Jesus even when it’s hard because he watched too many of his friends walk away from Jesus when life got complicated. That’s similar to the motive behind my first tattoo. This one, however, was my third, and one of the layers of meaning in the matching tattoos for me is that I’m able to be an encouragement to young people in their walk with Jesus when things get tough (just as they often are an encouragement to me). There’s a lot of emotional investment on my part in the spiritual walks of these children who come through my classroom, but it’s a joy to spend and be spent in this way.

Chris made fun of me this spring saying that when students call me mother long enough they start to treat me like one. His comment was brought on by the student who texted me asking me to find him a place to live and a job for the summer. I found him two housing options within 48 hours, but now he’s back at university and called me this week to tell me he often thinks about how he just wants to never talk to me again because I challenge him to grow in uncomfortable ways. “But also I know that you’re right about a lot of stuff,” he went on with his confession, “and I’m going to do the hard things you told me to.” He definitely won’t do all of them, but he’s going to call his parents this weekend which is a huge growth step for him. That particular kid is one of the most gifted students I’ve ever known, and every conversation with him is a paradox of an incredible high that God lets me be a part of his development and incredible frustration with how he is so scared of his calling and runs away from responsibility.

I will still gladly spend and be spent for that child because he’s actually a huge catalyst in my own personal growth towards Jesus. I want to be known for my followthrough, and I do my very best to model to each of my students the pattern of challenge and growth towards Jesus and never being satisfied with where I am in my relationship with the infinitely knowable God of the universe.

Another one of my students got married four weeks ago, and he’s starting this new season of married life doing his senior year of college online in Alabama instead of in person in California. This gem of a human regularly asks me to keep challenging him because he doesn’t want to get complacent in his faith either. We’re going to have a group call later today with other alumni interested in intentionally following Jesus to discuss how we can be discipled and disciple others. It’s part of a two year commitment these kids gave to grow together and be honest with each other. I love to spend and be spent in this way for my students who are willing to grow closer to Jesus alongside me.

A different group of students agreed to call me monthly to have a Jesus minded book club where we read various literature and talk about how these books can help us love Jesus better. I really love reading in my free time, but I don’t exactly have a lot of it in the season of hybrid learning – yet I’ll still spend and be spent for the valuable opportunity to encourage Jesus minded discussion of quality texts and be encouraged myself by young people engaging thoughtfully with non-Christian writers.

And while I’ve brought up hybrid learning, I’ll be completely honest with how it doubles my workload as a teacher, but I’m doing my absolute best to provide quality education to my students in this global pandemic. It’s weird and unprecedented for everyone, and it’s not worth complaining about how hard it is. Instead, I’m going to evaluate what my capacity is and offer the best I can for my students. I will gladly spend and be spent to teach them in whatever circumstances we are all currently in. These aren’t easy times for anyone, but whatever prayers you can spare for me this week, my request is that I can do my job well in less than ideal circumstances and that I will be able to have sufficient stamina and energy to keep walking daily while also going back to school and dealing with planning and teaching.

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