A little preface: Nate teaches high school social studies in Durham, NC. This is the end of this second year teaching in the public school system. Even though he has a heart for ministry and desires most of all to help others grow spiritually, he has learned a lot from teaching and plans to continue teaching next year. He considers himself the “full-time missionary” at his school, and has earned the respect of administrators, teachers, and students for his spiritual leadership and presence there. He continues to host a daily morning prayer session for faculty and a weekly bible study after school.
I’ve had bad days before, sometimes bad weeks, even a few bad months at a time. Last Thursday night and Friday counted as a pretty rough one as far as my recollection goes. We had our first day of state-mandated testing, which fills me as a teacher with far more anxiety than it ever did as a student. If a kid sneezes too loud, does that count as a misadministration? What if I do not call time at exactly the 60-minute mark? I stayed up til nearly 1:30 on Thursday night (I usually am in bed by 8:30) vexing myself about this test, over which I have no real control. I became very frustrated because I seemed unable to assuage my own irrational fears and get some rest. By allowing my thoughts to run amok, I was practically guaranteeing a much worse and frustrating tomorrow, one that already had high enough stakes.
When we see visions of the terrible unknowns of life, our vision actually gets darkened. Jesus said in his sermon on the mount, “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!” (Matthew 6:22-23). My Friday was not at all bad, except for the damage I caused myself by not controlling my thoughts. I came home to a very cheerful wife, which magnified my grumpiness. I plopped down on the couch and stayed there for a good while. It was not until we were going to bed that she said to me, “I got my hair cut today. Did you notice?” I tell you what, I felt about as terrible as I ever have as a husband. It may not seem like a big deal to the seasoned married couples out there – even some of the single folks – but I have been asking Leah to cut her hair short for a long time. Part of her motivation for getting it cut that day was wanting to make me happy. Her actions and intentions, however, fell on blind, darkened eyes. I didn’t notice what was in front of me.
Outlook Determines Outcomes
If there is an abundance of prophecy in this world, it is the self-fulfilling kind. It comes from a listless surrender to negativity and fear that can dominate the mind. We focus on all that can go wrong and then we actually conform ourselves unconsciously to that design. I do not necessarily believe that the mind trumps all other things, but it is powerful. I didn’t notice that my wife cut her hair (which looks great by the way!) but more importantly, I didn’t notice that God was present and available to pray to. I spent my sleepless hours in front of the T.V., not the bible. My vision was blinded by the mundane and my ears ringing with demonic torments, and I did nothing to seek God. With that lens, how can I see the things that are clear and right in front of me?
If all we have is a vision of the awful and unfortunate, we need a vision change, and the prescription is prayer. Vision is essential for those who follow as much as those who lead. Jesus’ spelled it out in practical terms: “Blind guides cannot lead the blind.” The same wisdom also applies to following, because if we do not see God’s hand guiding us, how can we follow? I don’t know if I would have gone to sleep any earlier or felt any better in the morning if I had prayed, but I know my vision and my mind would be clean and clear. A clear vision, not just a positive outlook, is essential in paving the way for a life that receives blessings from the Lord. That day, with students in a classroom for nearly four hours before their test, I got to spend 2 of those hours leading a bible study with several students. That sort of opportunity is not every day, and I might have missed it altogether.