My principal set the page filled with student comments in front of me, and we walked through them together. Students had taken an anonymous survey about teachers, and at the end they were able to write freely any comments or criticisms they had about each teacher. There were some pretty nice comments on my sheet, and I liked those. But one student said, “She’s short-tempered.”
“Now take some of these negative comments with a grain of sand,” said my principal.
That’s good advice that opened the door for me to brush off that critique, except the Holy Spirit said to me, Hold up, sister.
In Parenting, by Paul David Tripp, he says we have an “inner lawyer,” and mine rose up to my defense in that moment. Ooh, it would have been so easy to craft closing arguments that would have had the jury declaring, “Not guilty!”
But I looked Jesus in the eye and said, Okay, give it to me straight. Am I short-tempered with my students sometimes?
Yes, he said.
That’s when school started, because I want to be a student and learn how to be all of the things: patient, loving, kind, gentle.
“What fun things are you doing this summer?” someone will ask. And I’ll say, “Oh, you know, letting the Spirit of God take me apart, sand me down, repaint me, and put me back together.”
A few weeks ago I finally caved in and looked up my Enneagram number. All of the cool kids are looking at this personality inventory, and I wanted to be in on the conversation. I was telling my husband what Enneagram number I think I am, and he was skeptical that I could know for sure. Then I described to him that my number really wants to be nice but in body language can’t help but exude criticism and disapproval. He might have laughed and I joined him. Oh yes, that is definitely my Enneagram number.
You can be really short-tempered with your body language, the Spirit of God said gently to me. True. True!
Change me, Lord, I prayed. Do your work in me this summer. I’m listening.
Our summer reading assignment as teachers is Parenting, by Paul David Tripp. (This is an unfortunate title for the book, because I think everyone should read it. It drips gospel truth about who we are as people and how we should relate to each other.) One chapter is about foolishness, and of course it talks about the foolishness that is inside children. But Mr. Tripp wrote this, seemingly under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit for my benefit:
When we rip into our children we are responding as a fool. A fool turns moments of ministry into moments of anger.
Have I ever ripped into my students in a display of short temper? Yes. Guilty. My inner lawyer tries to object, but he is overruled.
And so my education continues. It’s only June –can the Spirit do something miraculous inside of my soul before the first day of school in September? Oh, I absolutely believe he can, because he has done miracles in me before. So I keep agreeing with him when he points out my sinfulness, and I keep saying, Thank you, thank you. Yes, please let’s clean this up. It is really quite a sweet, worshipful experience, because isn’t it amazing that Jesus cares enough to give us one-on-one personal consultations, teaching, and transformative power? The intimacy of this is so generous and loving that it makes my love for him grow even deeper.
Oh wait, because that’s how a good teacher is supposed treat his students. Not that short-tempered, impatient thing.
Okay, so I have a long way to go but a great Savior who is willing to mentor me for as long as it takes, until I become a tender, patient, kind teacher human.
As for you, are you malleable? Will you refuse to lawyer up when the Spirit brings a true criticism in front of you? Are you developing a daily habit of listening and learning from Jesus, so that you can grow inside?