After six years of teaching English at a high school in Santa Ana, California, I left my teaching career mid year. I think I was more shocked at myself than anyone else was because I loved to work.
Explaining complex ideas, planning activities, reading essays and answering an unending stream of questions filled my days. Perhaps I am luckier than most teacher because I had so many students who had a small sense of internal motivation, especially in the AP course I taught. It was invigorating and tiring, hopeful and hopeless all at the same time. Though I admit I did not spend every waking moment working as some teachers are in the habit of doing, I did spend a lot of time planning, prepping and grading (oh, and driving to and from work each day). So much so that I find it difficult to recall other activities I engaged in. Yes, I liked yoga and swing dancing and reading (of course), and I cooked for fun and relaxation, but I never committed to any of these things on a regular basis because my work always came first. My life revolved around teaching, and like many other teachers, I was a workaholic in many respects.
That began to shift when I moved to Victoria,Texas in February following my husband (Peter) who moved just a month before for a job we had been praying about for years: he was now a professor at a community college, his dream job.
So here I was: no job, small apartment, new (small) city, no friends or family (except my husband, of course) for more than a thousand miles. I suddenly went from most of my day spent teaching to having most of the day to myself. Initially I gave into my workaholic tendencies and tried to create work for myself to do, but I felt invited by God to simply rest.
I rested a lot.
Oftentimes resting felt like a waste of time and I was bored and somewhat angry. Sometimes I meditated on this scripture:
He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.”
According to the Barnes Commentary, to “be still and know that I am God,” means “properly to cast down; to let fall; to let hang down; then, to be relaxed, slackened, especially the hands: It is also employed in the sense of not making an effort; not putting forth exertion; and then would express the idea of leaving matters with God, or of being without anxiety about the issue.”
Did I need to cast down, let fall my need to “do” and replace it with the deeper desire to “be”? I had allowed this “putting forth of exertion” as Barnes described to define me. In meditating on this truth, I had to let it come slowly to me. Sometimes this desire to “do” something surges up in me and God pours his grace into my heart with subtle reminders. He sometimes shows me my motivation: to be noticed as intelligent, creative or dedicated or to feel a sense of accomplishment. Though positive characteristics, each carries the burden of pride when they are motivational forces in my life.
Of course I slowly got involved in a bible study, found my way around different parts of the small city, read like a maniac (old habits die hard in this case), started taking yoga classes again and found a few part time jobs substitute teaching as well as adjuncting at the community college. I still have a lot of time to myself, but for now, I am resting, heeding the call to “[b]e still and know that [He] is God.”