Several of my former colleagues retired from teaching this year. Bless ‘em!!
I understand their paradox of emotions as they have made this decision. Panic, relief. Fear, trust. Sadness, joy. Doubt, hope.
“Should I, or shouldn’t I”?
“Will I stop being useful”?
“Teaching has been my life. How can I stop being a teacher?”
That’s just it. We never stop being a teacher, a carpenter, an engineer, a salesman, a banker, a parent, a sibling, a friend, a child of God. Our positions, our circumstances, our roles may change; but God continues to have a purpose for us all.
God has a plan for each of us at every stage of our lives. If we will let go and let God, He will use us to fulfill that purpose.
For example, the book of Esther tells us about a young woman who was uncertain about her future. When King Mordecai reminds Esther to relinquish her own desires, she turns to prayer and fasting and places her trust in God. Esther learns that she has been created “for such a time as this.” (See Esther 4:1-17.)
Emily Dickinson’s “I’m Nobody! Who are you? /Are you nobody, too?” is a sad commentary on an agoraphobic poet who felt she made no difference. But look at how the world sees her now!
Sooki, the beloved saggy, baggy elephant struggles to understand what kind of animal he is, but he eventually learns that God has a purpose for everyone.
In “The Tale of Three Trees” by Angela Hunt, three saplings dream of growing up to be beautiful and strong and tall. All three trees suffer great disappointment, however, when they are eventually cut down, never to reach the heavens. They believe they have failed in their usefulness. After time has passed and dreams have been forgotten, the first tree discovers she has been fashioned into a manger to hold the Christ child. The second tree realizes her value as a fishing boat carrying Christ and his disciples. Finally, the third tree finds herself holding the Savior as He shows His love to the world by making the ultimate sacrifice.
God had a special purpose for these trees just as He has for you and me.
To all the teachers and others who find themselves at a crossroad, you will find your purpose. You will never stop being.
Even though I have retired, I continue to sub and work part-time at my old school. While recently completing paperwork to qualify as a testing proctor, I was asked to identify myself as a “teacher,” “administrator,” or “other.” I wasn’t sure how to answer the question; so I consulted the testing coordinator.
His reply: “You will always be a teacher.”
My response: Misty eyes, a lump in my throat, and so much appreciation for those words.
“And when I am forgotten, as I shall be, and asleep in dull cold marble, where no mention of me must be heard of, say, I taught thee.” –William Shakespeare
“For we are His workmanship, having been created in Christ Jesus for good works that God prepared beforehand so we may do them.” Ephesians 2:10
Philippians 2:13; Proverbs 19:21