I remember walking down the steps toward The Shield, that midpoint on campus where students gathered with sack lunches at midday and where cheerleaders set up boom boxes for practice after school. As far as my peers went, I always felt a little bit on the fringe of things. I wasn’t an outsider nor was I an insider. I was likeable, but I was also a little too Christian to be invited to activities or parties despite my own cheerleader, dance team, soccer player status.
I was the one heading out on every mission’s trip the school had to offer. The one whose teachers always thought was supposed to graduate that year, though I had a few more to go. I was the one who felt that though I was friendly with many, felt distinctly like a square peg in a sea of circles.
My school was a mission school—one that was devotedly committed to the gospel and that meant accepting any student religious or not, though everyone would attend Bible classes and weekly chapels. It meant for me, that I had to make choices to follow Christ as a teenager or join the crowd. It was good for me and for my faith.
My junior year was well under way and as I stood on those steps overlooking the serene and beautiful campus toward the center gathering spot, the hub of the campus, I was literally arrested by the feelings swelling in my heart. I had spent, all told, from fifth grade to twelfth grade, eight formative years here. Though I had grown by leaps and bounds in my faith as a result, I saw a good many of my peers spiraling toward all things empty and meaningless. Some committed suicide. Others left school to raise babies. Most were guppies swimming along with the current. We all made our choices.
But as I descended those grand steps I breathed a humble prayer. “Lord, use me on this campus to reach students for You.” I had one year left to be a light in what I felt was a place of shifting shadows.
When graduation came, I felt that I had run my race though I wasn’t entirely sure I had made much of a difference. I wasn’t sure if God had truly answered my prayer in the way I wanted Him to. Leaving high school was bittersweet as it so often is. Little did I know that God had not given up on my simple prayer.
I went off to a Christian college and after four years, graduated from one of the sweetest seasons of my life. My goal was to teach high school English but God directed my steps to a small private school where I taught 6th grade elementary and loved every minute of it. I felt like I had found my calling and that God was using me. In the back of my mind, I always wondered about what it would be like to teach high school--my heart’s desire for a decade.
And then one day, my cell phone rang at the end of the school day. It was my alma mater letting me know that the teacher I had in 8th grade for a creative writing elective and who as my 10th grade English teacher inspired me to become a teacher myself, was leaving the school to move up north.
Was I interested in the position?
Five months later, I was setting up my classroom to teach 10th grade English and eventually Advanced Placement Literature and Advanced Placement Language and Composition to juniors and seniors. Those steps that served as an altar of prayer so many years before, were just outside my new classroom. I walked them every day. I had forgotten my prayer to be used on that campus until a few years into teaching and countless conversations with students about the importance of living life to the full as only God could enable them to do.
Eventually, my graduates would write to me.
They made decisions to follow Jesus because of my class.
One of them was going to commit suicide one evening when she came across a simple note I had written to her—and realized she wasn’t truly alone. Someone cared. She’d choose life.
Another student went on to be a filmmaker after an inspiriting project from my class where they had to create an original movie adaptation of one of the plays we read in class. The project altered the course of her life.
Hundreds wrote to tell me about how easy their ivy league college writing classes were because of my courses they took in high school.
Some reached out to me when they needed a visitor at the hospital years after they had left my classroom. They knew I would come.
Not a week goes by 16 years after my first class began, that someone doesn’t write and ask me to pray or give them insight.
Many went on to become English teachers themselves!
Two of them would replace me when I left the classroom completing the circle of protégés stepping into their mentors’ very shoes.
After nearly ten years of teaching, and countless hours of disciplining young women from my classes before school, during lunch breaks, and after school, I got married, had my first son, and left teaching behind.
“Lord, use me on this campus to reach students for You” I had pleaded. I had no idea what He had in store for me:
“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” (Ephesians 3:20-21)
God doesn’t take our prayers lightly and He does not view timelines like we do. His ways are higher than ours—His plans to prosper. To give us a hope. A future!
In my mind, asking the Lord to use me on that campus as a junior in high school meant impacting my peers for Christ. I never knew that the greater plan was that He would bring me back seven years later to impact my students for Christ.
In recent years, God moved me into an even more surprising season as a blogger and author, and I’m reminded that none of us has to be “stuck” feeling useless or unsatisfied with our lives. God created us to do good works before the foundation of the world and we will always and only be most effective when we avail ourselves to His purposes in our lives.
Take a chance and ask Him to use you. Make your steps, your bed, your car an impromptu altar with a simple but powerful prayer....
“Lord, use me!”
YOUR TURN! Do you feel like you are being used by God? Why or why not? Have you ever prayed and seen God answer in ways beyond your expectations? How can I pray for you today?