More than any other year, I have had conversations with other teachers about leaving our profession. If you have a teacher in your life, you’ve probably heard it before: low pay, no appreciation, kids are getting worse, and no support. Teachers, by nature, are critical thinkers and problem solvers, which can also make them quick to complain. Change their donuts to bagels in a staff meeting and a mutiny will form. I do not say this as one who stands outside the circle. I am equally guilty, although my frustrations are often internalized and turned into canker sores and headaches. For a reason I can’t quite pinpoint, it has been especially hard to keep my morale up these past nine months. I took off every day I could this year because I just had to get away. Not necessarily go on vacation, visit the doctor, or spend time with a chore. I just straight up needed to walk away from my classroom because I could feel the souring of my attitude and the shrinking of my heart. I admit it: there is a lot not to like about being a teacher, BUT, and this is a really big BUT (snicker), it is an unbelievably fun, challenging, and exciting profession. If you place your focus on the good, it far outweighs the day-in-day-out demands and frustrations. The intrinsic compensations are great, and why, ultimately, teaching is consistently ranked as one of the most rewarding careers.
Now, I do have a pro-trip, a trick, a game changer when it comes to negativity towards your career, or being a parent, or living as a teenager, or any other stage or status in life. It is delivered at the end of today’s reading in Romans 12: Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. What a simple solution. If we’d only heard that earlier, right? Don’t do bad stuff. Don’t let the bad stuff get to you. You may have picked up that my commentary is laced with sarcasm. However, for much of the chapter, this is the theme: something bad happens, do something good in its stead. Man, is it hard. I mean, how is it even possible? Why would I reward someone for being bad to me? Why should I indulge in any situation which makes me feel stressed?
Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Romans 12:9-11
There is a bleak backdrop to living in this world. There is war, famine, and disease. There is poverty, addiction, and abuse. There are shooting sprees, abductions, and pandemics, and we’re only beginning to list the atrocities of the present evil age. There is an onslaught of badness of the baddest worstiness. BUT, and this is a really big BUT, there is good, and that good stems from our Heavenly Father, and with that good, we are triumphant. We can love those who have enslaved us, show mercy to those who have betrayed us, enrich those who have stolen from us, and give peace to those who bring war to us. And with that good, the goodness of God, we win. BUT, this time a slightly smaller one, we have to be ready to change our thinking.
If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. – Romans 12: 18-19
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. – Romans 12: 2
We cannot be conformed to the pattern of diseased thinking. Although it is an easy path to follow, it is poisonous and breeds destruction. We have to be ready to reframe and reform every situation, our own dire circumstance, into God’s good, pleasing, and perfect will. The arrows for this fight are fledged with praying for our enemies and those who persecute us. I remember distinctly this year I was becoming increasingly frustrated with a student, when she shouted “Jesus Christ!” I responded by saying, “You can’t talk to Him right now because He’s busy talking to me about you.” Playfully intended, when I become frustrated with a student, an adult, family, or children, prayer is my weapon. Talking to God about it changes my heart and exposes my faults. As those who follow the Lord, we have the ability to test and prove what action we should take to demonstrate the Kingdom of God. In the vast majority of cases, our fiery arrows are plunged with the fruit we bear when mangled and tangled amongst weeds and thorns. Don’t drop the ball. Hold on to to what is good! Cling! We must be stringent to live out His moral will (see: fruits of the Spirit, Galatians 5:22-23) even if it causes our situation to deteriorate further. That’s hard, but this is when our testimony truly begins. Enemies and spectators, like Paul, and his jailer, and the thief on the cross, are actively watching and it changes their hearts. Don’t give your complaint a shelter to live in; give your life, your action, your attitude as the testimony to the Father.
Questions for Reflection and Discussion
- What are the problems with negative thinking – for you and for others? Is there an area in which you get stuck in negative, stinking thinking? What gems in Romans 12 can help change this mindset? Write them out. How can you begin retraining the brain (be transformed by the renewing of your mind)?
- What evil will you work to overcome? How? Pray for God’s leading and strength.