Thankfully, I’m dying bit by bit.
I had a professor in college who liked to shock us by saying, “The Holy Spirit is trying to kill you.” And, honestly, there is a lot in me that He needs to kill.
At the end of last week, I was frustrated with many of my students and tired of teaching. One class seemed to be intensely critical of everything I was saying, perhaps a reaction from an impromptu assignment the day before. Then a phone went off in class. Finally, I asked students to take down papers I had them stick to the board and a few seemed to think it would be funny to tear them off, leaving them slightly crumpled.
It was all more than I wanted to deal with at the time. And so I reacted. I spoke a bit too harshly to the students who didn’t seem to care about the activity I had thrown together for them. They were upset, but I was perhaps more upset. One wanted to argue the matter and I told them to come back later if they wanted to discuss it.
I had a couple class periods to reflect on the situation. My response, I soon realized, was not to that isolated situation but to the frustration of the entire day. And I knew that wasn’t fair, but I couldn’t undo my unfair reaction. So when one of the students stopped by after school, I was surprised, but glad. We had a conversation and a few moments of it I could feel myself getting a little upset again.
In the end, part of me died. I told the student I over-reacted and the punishment I threw out wasn’t fair. While apologizing, I admitted that I hadn’t responded in the way that I should have responded. “I agree with you: you don’t deserve a detention. I’m sorry.”
My prideful, stubborn self wanted to defend my initial response to the death. I wanted to save face and uphold punishments given out. Yet I also realized that I was in the wrong. And I was sorry that I had said what I had said. Removed from the situation and given some time to reflect, I was able to see a bit clearer what emotions had clouded in the moment.
As the student heard me apologized, I could see a shift in them. The student went from defensive to a bit surprised. While they had come to discuss the situation, they probably thought it was very unlikely that it would change anything. I’m certain I’m not this student’s favorite teacher by a long stretch, but I hope that they learn something about Jesus and grace in the midst of my foibles.
Here the Holy Spirit is working in the very places where I am broken and little. He is seeking to kill anything in me that is not of the Lord. Naturally, I resist, because death is generally unpleasant. Yet there is a glorious freedom in the death of self. As the student walked out of my room, I felt a great sense of relief. A bit of pride died. A bit of my desire to always be right died to the reality of what is right. A bit of my longing to be a marvelous witness of Christian living died to the fact that I am a broken person in need of God’s mercy.
Bit by bit, the Lord is striving to strip away everything in me that is not of Him. And although I resist it, I am looking forward to this death so that He can more fully live in me.
“I came that they might have life, and have it abundantly.” -John 10:10