There’s an old Tina Turner classic called, What’s Love Got to Do with It? that won the Grammy for best song in 1984. Well, what does love have to do with it – “it” being our work as Christian educators? It has everything to do with “it”!
We know that love is central to our mission as Christian staff. It seems obvious, but often the obvious gets neglected. Without love, we are nothing. We could have the best instructional practices in the world, the most engaging curriculum, the most authentic assessment, but if we don’t love our students, we have failed in our most important call. When a student seems hopeless, it is love that continues to hope. When we are tempted to give up, it is love that perseveres. It is love that always finds a way. Many aspects of teaching or administrating clamor for our attention, energy, and time and can drown out the quieter call to grow in love.
But we can only love our students with God’s love if we have experienced that love. That personal love. God’s love for me. Not just a generic, universal love – God has to love me, it’s part of God’s job description. No, a love that delights in me. The kind of delight those of us who are parents have experienced with our newborn baby who has not done anything but cry, eat, and poop and yet we are utterly smitten. A Psalm 139 kind of love where we are known through and through. A Psalm 103 kind of love that crowns us with love and compassion.
In his book Surrender to Love, David Benner says, “…knowing ourselves to be deeply loved by God is the first step in becoming genuinely great lovers of others and of God.” I appreciate how some translations of Psalm 23 say: “Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life.” God’s love pursues us, but as teachers and administrators we are usually running too fast to let God’s love catch up to us! We desperately need to learn to rest in God’s love, to trust in it, to take time to soak in it, to be replenished where we have poured out and poured out.
This means making time to intentionally be in God’s presence. Regularly. As a habit. No matter how busy we are. These quotes, scriptures, and prayer have helped me in centering myself in God’s love during my intentional times with God:
“I have called you by name, from the very beginning. You are mine and I am yours. You are my Beloved, on you my favor rests. I have molded you in the depths of the earth and knitted you together in your mother’s womb. I have carved you in the palms of my hands and hidden you in the shadow of my embrace. I look at you with infinite tenderness and care for you with a care more intimate than that of a mother for a child. I have counted every hair on your head and guided you at every step. Wherever you go, I go with you, and wherever you rest, I keep watch. I will give you food that will satisfy all your hunger and drink that will quench all your thirst. I will not hide my face from you. You know me as your own and I know you as my own. You belong to me . . . wherever you are I will be. Nothing will ever separate us. We are one.” (Life of the Beloved by Henri Nouwen)
"Consider the kind of extravagant love the Father has lavished on us—He calls us children of God! It’s true; we are His beloved children…" (1 John 3:1).
"Watch what God does, and then you do it, like children who learn proper behavior from their parents. Mostly what God does is love you. Keep company with him and learn a life of love. Observe how Christ loved us. His love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn’t love in order to get something from us but to give everything of himself to us. Love like that," (Ephesians 5:1-2 The Message).
"The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing," (Zephaniah 3:17).
Father, I have heard words like this before, but I confess that I still do not know much (or at least enough) of what your love for me is like. I am ever conscious of my sin and shortcomings, but it is hard for me to imagine that you would long to tell me I am your “beloved” until I get my act straightened up a bit. Would you whisper this truth to me as I am with you again? Can you help me believe that the words you spoke to Jesus--” You are my Son, chosen and marked by my love, delight of my life”--are words that are now for me too since Jesus and I are now one? (Written by Donovan Graham)
When I was principal of a Christian elementary school, one of the greatest gifts I could give my teachers was an hour during faculty meetings to just go and be with God with no agenda. I couldn’t do it often, but I wanted to signal to them that that part of their lives, in my mind, was the most important if they were to stand in front of the children and model Jesus for them.
We are doing profoundly important work, but we can’t do it without the heart knowledge that we are loved and delighted in by our Creator. With that heart knowledge, may we truly love and delight in every one of our students.
David Benner, Surrender to Love (Downers Grove, IL, IVP Books, 2003) p.11
Henri Nouwen, Life of the Beloved (New York, Crossroad Publishing Co., 1992)