Coach P. and Dr. B. Two Names. Two men who taught me. Two teachers who believed the best in me. Both of these educators modeled kindness and what it meant to be a team player. They challenged me, desiring to see my potential met. Even-tempered and filled with love, they rallied students together to reach goals, to impact others, and to leave a legacy of hard work and love wherever we went.
I don’t ever recall hearing them talk about God.
Growing up in a suburb of Dallas, Texas, my upper-middle class high school oftentimes felt like a private school. We had over a dozen National Merit Scholars, a majority of our graduates went on to attend four-year university, and we produced leaders in all areas of sports, music, and extracurricular activities. Our band performed on an episode of Barney my junior year, and Jessica Simpson sang in our choir. I loved this school and my not-so typical years there.
As a teenager, I was already a Christian but didn’t care two hoots about God or my walk with Him. I was saved at age nine, on a hot, summer morning in central Texas. Standing on the wooden deck of my camp cabin, my counselor prayed with me to accept Jesus as my Savior. My sister was abroad with an international peace organization, and my parents were off on a two-week vacation, so I was sent to TBarM Sports Camp. Thrilled to specialize in gymnastics, I was hoping to learn how to land my back handspring on the beam. Swimming, games, campfires, and tower-repelling delighted my adventurous spirit as well. Being nine years old, sleeping away from home for two weeks should have been a terrifying experience, but me and fear weren’t well acquainted yet. Throughout those sticky, summer nights I heard the Bible stories, sang “Lean on Me” a dozen times, and decided that maybe God did love me after all. Minutes after praying with my counselor, I bolted off the deck to jump back into the pool. I was changed but didn’t know it yet.
Thinking back to my high school days, I can’t remember knowing any Christian teachers. Maybe it was because few existed. Perhaps it was because they didn’t talk about it. Quite possibly it was because I didn’t care. Whatever the reason, I didn’t hear people talk about God much. The only reference to Him that I recall is seeing the Young Life posters in the hallway on Monday afternoons.
Today there is a growing pressure on educators to tow the faith line. Praying on the field before games, reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, or talking about your beliefs during a world religions unit, are frowned upon, if not forbidden. In a tight spot, you know that faith-based conversations and activities need to be student led and run, but you want to share the hope that you have. What can you do?
My encouragement today is this…
Your influence as a Christian teacher doesn’t depend on your ability to openly talk about God.
Matthew 5:16-17 says,
“Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a basket. Instead, they set it on a lamp-stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”
Oftentimes, we feel like we have to say a lot. Trying to slip the name of Jesus in somewhere, we hope to spark a conversation. Leaving our Bible on our desk, we pray someone notices and inquires. Growing discouraged, we feel like our spiritual light is being forced under that basket. Our lamp is being snuffed out by rules, boundary lines, and jurisdictions. If we can’t talk about God, how will people know about Him? If we aren’t allowed to share our testimony, then when will students hear about His life-changing ways? If we are suppose to put it on a lamp-stand, what do I do when I can’t speak openly about the thing that matters most to me?
Jesus brings encouragement by saying,
“A new commandment I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so also you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34-35
If you work in an environment where you can’t openly share your faith, don’t think for one second that you aren’t having influence for the Kingdom of Heaven. Fight the temptation to think your hands are tied and your impact is stifled. God’s love will be seen in the way you invest in those around you. The listening ear you provide during your lunch break. The encouragement you freely give at events and activities. The way you call out other’s strengths and encourage people in their weaknesses. The cheering on of other’s success. The respect you give to authority. The way you are devoted to your family. The grace you show during times of hardship or failure. It is your unspoken testimony. It has impact, and it matters.
Leaving the corridors of high school, I realized that I didn’t just believe in God, but I needed Him. Desiring to live a life that reflected His glory, I wanted to love people well in His name, fully surrendering my life, my passions, my giftings, my future. The change that began in my heart at nine years old was finally getting a chance to grow. I knew I was different and wanted to change the world because of it too.
As an adult, I have reconnected online to Coach P. and Dr. B. Still men devoted to students, they continue to leave an impact on others wherever they go. What I didn’t recognize at the time, I now know. They were set apart because God’s love poured out of them onto those around them. HE was the one creating the impact that I still get to live out today.
Christian teachers…do not be discouraged. Do not be dismayed. You are doing invaluable work for the Kingdom of God. Your love matters. Your influence is immeasurable. The seeds of hope you are planting today will be harvested in God’s perfect timing and for His eternal purposes.
Keep it up. And thank you.