Thursday, May 21, 2015

Authenticity


One of the biggest differences in my job this year and all of my previous teaching experiences is the integration of my community with my personal life. I go to church with many of my kids, I have taught them in Bible school, and I have colleagues and parents with whom I worship beside regularly and call friends. It's been a wake up call because there is indeed a challenge to separate 'Mrs. Wilson' from 'Briana' while not seeming as though two different people. It's not that I ever intentionally became one person at work or another at school and another at home, but the distance between these two worlds of mine made me not even consider it. There was no accountability. No one would notice or know the difference. So if I gossiped or uttered a sinful word under my breath at work, eh. Oops. Like I said, not that I really did that, but it was never something I needed to keep in my mind. This year, I have so much more awareness of this.
I had a kid recently say he did not post certain things on one social media over another because his youth minister followed him on that one. I couldn't help but ask why he was posting it in the first place? We talked briefly about the idea of being "fake" and being two people; one at school and one at church, or one at church and one elsewhere... and I thought about the dichotomy of being a Christian and a teacher, and how both of these identities make up who I am.

I had a kid ask me, "You're a Christian, right?" not too long ago, and I was floored because I thought surely they know this by now. He said "I thought so," so I didn't feel too bad, but it made me stop and think... Do I live a life that people will know I am Christian? But at the same time, I can't let my faith prevent my forming relationships with kids who are not Christian (and even in small town, southern America, there are lots... that whole "Bible Belt" idea is quickly becoming a thing of the past) who are in my classroom everyday. I never want to seem as though I am proselytizing or isolating or in anyway off-putting to non-Christian kids.

I want to be known for being real and honest and kind in all situations. I feel like one of the main ways I show my faith as a teacher is seeing the best in everyone.
Yes, So-and-So gossips, (TRUTH) but he/she is smart and knows a lot about such and such. (ALSO, TRUE)
Yes, So-and-So is slack, but he/she has a lot on his/her plate...
Yes, I know So-and-So is loud and rude, but he/she doesn't know better and just wants your attention.

These are thoughts that roll around in my head regularly. I know people (adults and children, alike) have flaws. I am flawed. They might do things I don't like personally or things that offend me as a Christian. They might get on my nerves. But with every parent, coworker, or child with whom I interact, or even my own family members, I can acknowledge what separates us, what bothers or annoys or offends me, but I HAVE to also acknowledge their strengths, experiences, and intentions and appreciate that part of them, too.

I feel like so many conflicts could be solved if I could convince more people to look at one another this way.

That kid that you can't stand, well, she's been through a lot and happens to act that way because no one has told her that's not acceptable...
That coworker you think is slack, well, he's dealing with family issues at home that you couldn't imagine.

I'm not perfect at this, by no means. I still yell angrily at the "idiot" that pulled out in front of me without thinking that he could have been absent-minded because he just lost his job or found out he has cancer, or on his way to the hospital to see a dying parent... I still have a lot of work to do in seeing the other side of people before making assumptions or decisions about them.

But I am trying each day at this. I feel like it's one way I can reconcile being a public school teacher and Christian. I can't really tell my kids about the love of Christ overtly, but I can show it by encouraging them to look at one another with forgiving, understanding eyes, and doing this myself.

And the idea of being two people, one at work and one at church? Well, I can't be judged by my sins or even the lack there of... I won't be able to live a sinless life, anywhere. If I for one second let myself think THAT is what determines my authenticity as a Christian, I missed the point. I sin at home, at school, and even at church. What shows my authenticity is my love for others.

Matthew 22:36-40
“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”


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