It has been exactly one year (and half a day) since I arrived in Belgium.
That seems completely impossible.
In two weeks I will have taught for an entire year (school year, that is).
I think I’ve grown more in this last year than I have in my whole adulthood over the course of several years, which is saying a lot, because there was much growing to do during itineration.
It was largely thanks to my itineration speaking experiences that when I stood up to teach on my very first day on September 19, 2016, I felt almost completely comfortable and fairly confident. I was astonished at how natural it felt. I talked a lot during itineration about how teaching theology was something God had given me to do that suited who I am intimately, but experiencing exactly that very thing was still incredible and delightful. But I’ve also learned so very much.
I’ve learned how to be authoritative and assertive without feeling uncomfortable about it and also without shutting down the inquisitive nature of many of my students. I’ve learned (am learning) how to keep control of a classroom, how to balance friendliness and firmness without harshness, how to decide when to follow tangents and when not to. I’ve learned to be comfortable with ambiguity and with not knowing things. I’ve learned (sort of) to be fine with dealing with controversial theological topics. In short, I am learning how to be comfortable with leadership in ways I’ve never been before.
Both my students and I are getting quite a lot out of my classes. One of the students, whom I’ve had in two different classes, told me yesterday that it seemed he’d gotten more out of my classes than a single year seemed to warrant. The same is true for me. Both in preparing my lectures and giving them, I’ve been learning new things, old things in new ways, deeper backgrounds and wider perspectives on all my subjects than I’ve had before. Teaching is amazing.
Up until now I’ve often wondered why I had to wait until I was in my 30s before I could finally get into missions. Now I know that it’s because I needed the time to develop my theological and psychological depth. I have much more depth to give my students now than I would have in my 20s. Long years spent in preparation are not wasted.
All of the above I attribute to God’s wisdom, providence, and kindness. People don’t go into missions to please themselves but to please God and to use what they have to grow His Kingdom, but of course God, being the kind and wise and intelligent Person that He is, uses missions to grow the very people doing it. That’s part of being the Body of Christ. Not only do you contribute to the growth of others, but your growth is also contributed to. I like the way God works.