My sixth grade teacher royally offended me once.
Let’s call her Mrs. X.
The bell rings for recess and my peers file out. All except me and the popular girl. I stay back to collect the papers strewn about (yeah, I was that kid), and Popular Girl stands at the teacher’s desk, reviewing a homework assignment.
“You need to focus, young lady,” Mrs. X tells her, exasperated. “Be more like, more like… Shannon!”
I am flattered. And mortified. Popular Girl hardly ever lets me play double-dutch with her friends. I’ll never get the invite now.
“But, she’s soooo smart!” Popular Girl whines.
“No!” Mrs X says sternly, slapping her hand down hard on the desk. “No, she’s not!”
I told you she offended me. My bottom lip quivers. I drop the stack of papers and Mrs. X catches sight of me.
She sighs. “Well, yes. Yes, she is smart. But that’s not why she does well. She does well because she listens. Because she pays attention. Because she wants to learn. That’s what I mean. Be like that. Now, go. Recess is almost over.”
It’s a horrible cover-up, and earns me no points with Popular Girl. She cuts her eyes at me and walks out the door in her brand new jelly shoes. Still, I gather up the papers and take them to Mrs. X. She smiles her apology and I shuffle out of the classroom. I pass right by the girls playing double-dutch and make my way to the dodge ball court. Everybody’s welcome at dodge ball.
It’s a silly little story. But, one that has stayed with me through the years. I’ve always had an interest in the way things work, always enjoyed learning new things. So, really, the teacher was right. I’m not some brainiac with the answers to life’s biggest problems. I’m just a kid in worn-out sneakers who likes to learn. That’s who I was in sixth grade and that’s who I am now.
Though, at times, my pride takes a hit.
It’s nice to feel superior. Nice to feel smarter than everyone around me. But, it’s not a truth. It’s not reality. And, it’s humbling when someone comes along who actually KNOWS more than I do.
Now, I have no problem admitting that there are things I can’t do. Things I’ve never been any good at: Math, hula-hooping, ice skating, to name just a few. And it doesn’t pain me in the slightest to hand my crown off to those who excel in these areas. It’s when I feel I have a skill mastered that I get the most touchy.
With the exception of God, my family, and my church, writing has been my chief focus of late. I spend time reading, studying the craft. I pray about it. I meet with a writing group. I write whenever I possibly can, and I take pride in the work I pump out. And when someone corrects me, when someone is brave enough to make a suggestion, I become that sixth grade girl again. My lip quivers and I’m tempted to drop the work in my hands. Tempted to run from the room, back to the dodge ball court where everyone is accepted.
But, it’s vanity. It’s pride that drives me to that place.
When I’m there, consumed with self-deprecating thoughts of worthlessness and failure, the words of James, the brother of Christ, bring me back to a firm foundation.
And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. –James 1:4-5
We must endure through the things we see as trials. Through the things that cause us to question. We must ask for wisdom and we must never, ever assume we know all there is to know. We all need wisdom, and God often uses the people around us to humble and teach us. We must allow ourselves to be teachable. Learning, even the hard way, leads to growth.
The apostle Peter is also a great inspiration to me. Read what he says:
You younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders; and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for GOD IS OPPOSED TO THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE. Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you. –1 Peter 5:6-7
The writing industry, while unique in its own way, is like most other businesses. Everyone’s trying to get ahead. Everyone wants to come up with that one great story, the one that will speak to the masses, that will earn them kudos and back slaps. Everyone is looking for advancement. When I find myself swept up in the hysteria of the whole thing, I remind myself of Peter’s words: HUMBLE YOURSELVES under the MIGHTY HAND OF GOD, that HE may exalt you at the PROPER TIME.
It’s all in God’s hands. We can be nothing but the Potter’s clay.
Pliable. Teachable. Accessible.
And when He’s ready, He will lift us up.
At the proper time, friends.
At the proper time.