I love teenagers. While I also love little ones, there’s something about being able to have great, deep conversations with teenagers. Since I have never been one who simply keeps my thoughts to myself, I have had plenty of spirited conversations with my own teenagers and their friends. For the past few years, I had a feeling in my spirit that God was going to put me around more teens. And not just ones that came to our house because they were my kids’ friends. I couldn’t put a finger on exactly what that meant, but it was a very clear feeling…that lasted for a while. Two and a half years ago, I printed out a teaching form to be a substitute teacher in the high school where my three children have gone to school since the dawn of time. I figured high school would be a better fit for me than middle school. The substitute application form sat on my printer for literally an entire year…not filled out. I would pick it up and dust under it and put it back. I just never did anything with it. Then as I was innocently walking past the printer one day, something in me said “turn that in today.” Say what?! “Yep. Turn it in today.” I bet God doesn’t say the word “yep”, but that’s the gist I got.
The feeling was so strong that I took the substitute teaching form in that day. And by the way, nothing like this has ever happened to me before, where I felt so strongly that I had heard from God. Well, I inadvertently went to the wrong place to turn the form in (maybe subconsciously I did that on purpose). I had to get in my car and drive around the school (which that effort alone almost made me drive home). While I wound up in the right place, I found out I had the wrong form. The woman working in that office told me I could go home and print out the right form or she could go get me one. If I went home to print it, there was a strong chance I wouldn’t have returned. Can you see I wasn’t too terribly thrilled about turning the application in? So, I asked her to get a new one for me. I had to write down the classes in which I would be interested in being a substitute teacher. Let’s see…I can barely add 2+2, don’t remember what a molecule is, not sure on high school grammar specifics, not thrilled about history, so…let’s do study hall! Well, that wasn’t an option, so I put down Spanish I (I could limp my way through that) and Bible (after all, I had a Bible and God did just speak to me, didn’t He?) After I filled it out, I slapped my two hands together as if to say, “There! Did my job of turning it in. I’m outta here.”
Later that same day, before I left to go to my daughter’s basketball game in south Houston, I emailed the current freshman bible teacher (whom I had known for a while) and said, “Hey, if you need a sub anytime, I’m your girl!” Shameless self promotion. I had a spring in my step because I felt like I had done what the Lord wanted me to do and that He wasn’t going to make me do anything else! Dodged that spiritual bullet. So as I am driving south for the basketball game, I got a return email from the bible teacher. Being the responsible driver that I was (at least at this moment), I didn’t read it until I arrived at the game. Her reply was, “Hey! Would you have any interest in being a long term sub?” While I technically didn’t know what that term meant, I had a pretty good guess. And my first reaction was “HECK NO!” Long term means more than one day a week. And I haven’t had outside employment since 1996 when Jack was born. Guess “heck no” isn’t really the right response to say to a bible teacher. But I didn’t respond to the email because I was walking into the game.
I sat next to one of the sweetest moms at our school and told her of the whole substitute teaching deal and the fact that I was so proud of myself (what an idiot!) for turning my substitute teaching form in. But I didn’t mention the long term sub inquiry…what were the first words out of her mouth? “Julie! You need to be a long term sub! That way you get to know the kids better.” Great. Thanks. I swear I looked up at the ceiling of the gym (like God was going to be chilling out in the rafters just looking at me with a twinkle in His eye) and thought to myself, “Ok, God…this might just be a coincidence that she’s encouraging me to be a long term sub.” After the game, I replied to the Bible teacher telling her I’d be willing to talk with her (which I probably would not have said if I hadn’t sat next to that sweet mom)…I hesitated as I pushed the “send” button on the email. I could see where this was headed and it made me nervous.
Two days later, I went to sunday school by myself because my husband was out of town. And what was the lesson on? Stepping out of your rut. Doing something that you know God is calling you to do but you are afraid to do it. The teacher’s whole lesson was on Deuteronomy 1 where the Israelites took 40 years to make a 40 day trip because they kept rebelling. It was like I was sitting in the middle of the room hoisted up on a platform with a spotlight on me as the teacher kept speaking. And yes, I was sweating. As I walked out of sunday school convinced that this was something God was calling me to do (hilarious in a way because I hadn’t even interviewed or been offered the spot!) who do I run into but the BIBLE TEACHER. I have gone to our church for 20 plus years and have never run into her at church before. In order to keep this blog post from turning into a novel, I became the long term substitute Bible teacher for the freshman class the following August when the current teacher was on maternity leave.
The gig was for 12 weeks. Every day. For 12 weeks. Did I say every day? If I hadn’t been so sure that God had called me to do this, I wouldn’t have made it out of bed by the second week. I had never taught a day in my life. Well, officially. If you are a mom or dad, you are always teaching.
My dog, Scooter wouldn’t look at me anymore. The house looked like a bomb had consistently gone off. And for some reason, my family kept needing to eat and have clean clothes…which I thought was mighty inconvenient for me and inconsiderate of them. I even had my undergarments showing one day because my shirt was tucked in the wrong way. One of my friends whom I never had time to talk to or see anymore (and couldn’t believe I was doing what I was doing) stormed into the middle of my classroom in an attempt to scare me during Halloween with her husband dressed up as a gorilla and her friend dressed up as a chicken. (See photo above.) Never a dull moment.
This job stretched me out of my comfort zone big time. But…I loved those kids. I even loved the one who threatened to turn me in to the principal because I told them their memory verse quiz was going to be a pop one right there on the spot (isn’t that nice…punish them with a memory verse quiz) instead of the next day, as it was originally scheduled. As I told him to “go for it”, I figured I would get fired. Oh well. And I could never leave my phone on my desk if I left class to go to the restroom because I would come back to find 50 selfies of students on my phone.
It’s funny when I now see the students I had because I feel like I have a real connection with them. Have you ever had a situation where you see someone that you are way more excited to see than they are to see you? There have been a few awkward moments when I want to throw my arms around them and say, “HEY!!! HOW ARE YOU DOING??” and some just kinda give me the cool teen look as if to say, “Fine, thanks and please go away”. Apparently, I got more attached to some of them then they did to me. At least the teachers I was up there with for three months will still hug me.
I was afraid to say ‘yes’ to God, but I was more afraid to say ‘no’, because He couldn’t have made it more clear that I was supposed to teach during that short season of my life. The relationships that I have now with some of the teachers (and kids) are still such a blessing to me today. And taking me out of my comfort zone was so good (and hard) for me. Is there something that God is nudging you to do that you are afraid to say ‘yes’ to? Is He arranging some circumstances that you just can’t ignore? Trust me when I say He will make it abundantly clear to you if you seek Him. And better yet, He will show you more of Himself, which is the most exciting part. Who knows? Maybe one day dusting something off will turn into something new in your life.