“It came as a sheer gift to me, a real surprise, God handling all the details.” -- Ephesians 3:7 (translation by Eugene Peterson)
When I read this passage in the Bible this morning, I realized that it was precisely what I needed to overcome my occasional sense of discouragement about my teaching. For many years, I have been trying to “make myself” into a super teacher, which has inevitably led to periods of despondency. I guess I have thought of myself as a sculptor trying to shape a statue of a flawless teacher, or a movie director trying to design a film about perfect teaching, and a certain sadness has always set in when I have seen that the goal is a great way off. I have seen myself as the author, architect, deviser, designer, and overall boss and president of my teaching – with all the stress and occasional distress those labels suggest. This wonderful statement by Paul in his letter to the Ephesians helps me to understand that I have been utterly misguided in my approach to teaching. What happens in my classroom does not happen because of me. In fact, I am simply a part of what happens, just as a small branch on a tree is a part of the whole tree as it rustles in breezes. The Universe (what some people call God) “handles all the details”, as Paul puts it. The grand, infinite, and ever-harmonious Universe – the master sculptor, the main movie director – "gives" each thought and action that occurs in the classroom. It’s not something I plan or produce or organize or control or am responsible for or need to feel guilty about. It’s the Universe's gift, moment after moment, all a “sheer surprise”. If I can understanding this remarkable truth next year, I will be totally relaxed as I enter the classroom – just as relaxed as I would be walking into a theater. What wonderful surprises are in store for me today? What has the grand movie-maker planned for my students and me?