Sunday, January 12, 2014


Presentations play a fairly major part of my life as a teacher. I present lessons to students. I might present PD to colleagues. I listen to presentations from both students and colleagues. This week, I had some fairly important presentations to give: my presentations to incoming Grade 8 students and to their parents. Those are important because they mark the beginning of my annual efforts to convince teenagers to take Latin with me in sufficient numbers to keep my program healthy and vibrant. More presentations follow, of course, to grade 9s to take advantage of a second change to enter Latin, to my current students to convince them to go on to higher levels-, but these Grade 8 presentations are pretty important because they set the tone. I'm always a bit anxious and it has only been in recent years that I've found that I can let go of that anxiety by remembering that God will give the students He wants me to have, so I really just need to trust that. I can make the presentation, but I don't control the outcomes.

Yet, other things this week got me thinking about presentation. In particular, I got to thinking about my own tendencies to want to give presentations to God; that is, my tendency to want to craft a neat, organized and, if possible, engaging little presentation about what I'm intending to do rather than the messy process of asking for help while I'm still discerning. It would be so much more comfortable to just report my solution to whatever it is that I'm trying to sort out and just get God's little red stamp up in the right corner- preferably with a gold star or two for good work. Of course, that isn't how discernment is supposed to work and my tendency to want to wrap things up merely causes me to anxiously chase my own tail trying to solve the problem myself. I know that, whenever I'm dithering, it is almost certainly because I'm trying to think my way to that presentation and I need to stop and start asking questions about why I'm trying to solve this problem on my own. Then, I need to take it to someone- God, of course, but, since God tends to work through other people, someone else who can help me sort out the tangle that I've created in my own head. The times I do that usually are the times when decisions become more clear. And that is why I'm getting better about remembering to do it eventually. . 

So, what I think I'm learning is that my relationship with God and others doesn't need to be a slickly designed presentation, but an invitation into a much more dynamic, creative and messy process. When I give a presentation at school, no one sees the false starts, mistakes, and just bad ideas through which I had to dismiss and correct to get the final process. Yet, it is in those false starts, mistakes and bad ideas that I learn and in that creative process that I grow. The point of discernment is not to look good, but rather to learn what live out the life that God intends for me. Like my Grade 8 presentations, I still don't control the outcomes, but I have to trust God, either in prayer or through others, will show me what He wants for me and that is going to be a better outcome than anything I'm likely to come up with on my own. 

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