A Lesson from Ms. Gunn's 5th Grade Classroom
One afternoon two weeks ago during my students’ second week of school as 5th graders, I was grading their papers. We read chapter one section two from our History textbook aloud together during class, and their job was to answer the three questions at the end of the section on a clean sheet of notebook paper. Sounded easy enough to me.
The second question read: “Name three Indian groups that lived south of what is now the United States.” Many students easily found the correct answer: 1. the Aztecs who were primarily in Mexico, 2. the Mayas who were in Central America, and 3. the Incas who were located in South America. The answers were on pages 5 and 6, right there plain as day. Or so I thought.
Multiple students wrote answers like 1. The Aztecs 2. The West Indies 3. Tierra del Fuego. I paused, cocked my head, narrowed my eyes and furrowed my brow. “Are you for real?.... the West Indies??”
So, I flip back in the chapter to where it describes the West Indies to see how they might have gotten confused. It reads: “the West Indies, a 2,000-mile-long chain of mountainous islands in the Caribbean Sea.” What part of that sounds ANYTHING like a living, breathing group of people?
As my blood pressure rises, I look to where the book describes Tierra del Fuego: “an archipelago, or group of islands, off the southern tip of South America.” At this point I’m more than a tad peeved. These are bright kids I am working with, and I don’t care what their reading level is, I know that each and every one of them, had they actually taken the time to read the words around “the West Indies” and “Tierra del Fuego”, would have quickly found out that both of those were incorrect answers, referring to inanimate objects and pieces of land rather than people groups.
In my head, I accuse: “You just saw the ‘Indies’ in ‘West Indies’ and thought it sounded close enough to the word ‘Indian’ and wrote it down without actually reading it. And for the second one, you just got tired of looking for the correct answer and wrote ‘Tierra del Fuego’ because you thought it sounded funny like the name of an Indian group might. Lazy, incompetent children!!”
As I was grading, I ranted to my dad, offended that these kids did not give their best effort on these questions. How they were just writing one of the first things they saw, but they did not actually take the time to read the words around the bolded word that they chose to answer with. I was a little put off because I know they are so smart and can do better than that.
Later, I handed back the papers and had a conversation with my students, encouraging them to always give their best effort and use the History text to their advantage because it has all the information they will need to answer the questions at the end of each section.
Fast forward a few days. I was going on a walk in my neighborhood, and out of the blue as I was thinking about things non-school related, the Lord said to my heart loud and clear, “You’re just like your students, when you give me less than your best. I know that you know better, but you are being lazy and you aren’t wholeheartedly seeking me and digging through my Word to find what your heart is really looking for.”
How’s that for some humble pie. But He is so right. So often I pray as I am driving, as I am exercising or at work: while I am doing other things. But it is so, so hard for me to get on my knees in the still and quiet of the morning for more than three minutes to start my day seeking Him first instead of briefly praying for the things I need to make my life easier or better as I am busy doing something else.
I pray for wisdom and direction from the Lord. That I would become more like Him and have more of a heart for lost people and love people the way He does. But I read His Word for maybe a few minutes a day and whine about how He is not holding up His end of the deal.
“If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me. “ Jeremiah 29:13
More often than not, I neglect to seek the Lord wholeheartedly, above everything else, with God as the end goal, not what he can do for me in my life or the life of those around me as the goal. I make praying and reading His word a part of each day, but I neglect to truly dig into the Word rereading and meditating on it for more than 10 minutes.
I feel like the Lord is saying, “It’s all right there, Mary Margaret. It’s all right there in the text I have provided for you for life, my Word. You’re taking the lazy, cheap route, skimming it while eating breakfast and looking to other people for interpretation of my Word instead of spending time with me in prayer with your Bible open, praying the Scripture back to me, praying for discernment and understanding. It’s all right there, but it’s up to you if you want to use it, fully access it- or not.”
And you know, I don’t feel accused by God in the slightest. I don’t feel accused because I know he is 100% right. He is waiting to meet with my in my prayer closet but on most days I don’t show up or only stop in for a brief moment.
In the same way that I encouraged my students to always present their best work, I feel the Lord calling me higher, deeper, and out of the mediocrity that we are prone to as humans. The same way I don’t want students who only fulfill half of their potential as learners, God doesn’t want followers who only give half of the effort of truly following and knowing Him. Revelation 3:16 comes to mind, “So, because you are lukewarm-neither hot nor cold- I am about to spit you out of my mouth.” He isn’t playing around, y’all.
He gives us everything we could possibly need in his Word, including the Holy Spirit to teach us the truth and meaning of the Word, and direct access to God himself any time we choose to stop and talk with Him.
I want to be less like the haphazard, lazy version of my students, and more like the enabled, dedicated version of each of them that I know they have the potential to be whenver they only choose to. I want to be a heart fervently burning for who God is. For Him first, His face above all of my problems or needs or wants.
He wants the same for you. He is waiting for you to dive full throttle into the deep end of His word and prayer.
May we be found faithful to the calling of walking faithfully with Him, always giving our best for the Lord and diving in to all that He has for us in his Word, not accepting cheap imitations, summaries, or substitutes.
- Mary Margaret // @margegunn