School Sunrise

Written on

May 20, 2023

Thanks to Daylight Savings Time, my drive to work definitely changes over the course of the school year. A good portion of the months, I leave my house and arrive at my school when it is still very dark. Lately, the sun is now very much in the sky and, if it’s not raining, the 6:30 am drive is bright as the yellow highlighter in my bag. On the dark mornings, when it is still very much the middle of the night outside, it is a challenge to get up and get going. On the light mornings, leaving is a lot easier.

My morning drive has consistently been about 20 minutes. I have filled that time in various ways – listening to podcasts or catching up on missed sermons. However, I have found it most productive when I have worshipped on my way to teach 100+ sixth graders across town at one of our district’s Title One middle schools. Mixing my prayers in with praises, centers my focus – why I am doing what I am doing, and taps my spirit into His – to have the connection with Him to do what He would have me to do.

My favorite drives to work have been on those days that are neither dark or light, but those “in-between” mornings, when the sun is just peeking over the eastern horizon and is beginning to silently but surely flood the streets, the neighborhoods and the way I take to work, with golden rays. Songs of God’s faithfulness are even more impactful as I witness His daily reminder of His presence and the surety of His promises in the natural reminder of a sunrise. I can literally, visibly see how He has been working throughout the night and that His mercies are new each morning as the darkness and the shadows creep away in retreat. I know that His sunrise isn’t just for me, but it sure feels like He uses it to whisper in my ear that He loves me.

My drive to work is almost completely dead west in the morning. I track the sunrise in my rearview mirror and appreciate how, like a flashlight, it casts its glow in the direction I am going – to a center of our society and culture, where SO many worldviews and ideologies collide, various cultures, ethnicities and races are swirled together, and a variety of socio-economic backgrounds are represented. I teach in a public school.

Public schools are dark – and nowadays, even scary places. Watching the news and reading social media can cast a pretty dim – even dark picture. I can’t and don’t blame many of my friends and fellow Christians for deciding to pull their kiddos out. They’ve chosen private schools or homeschooling. But, their absence – their kids and their input/involvement also adds to the darkness of the schools. As believers, we carry the light into dark places. Fewer believers in public schools, means the schools are darker without their presence.

My husband and I continue to make the choice to send our daughters out to be light in the dark places of their schools. We believe that we are called to teach them how to be in the world but not of the world before we throw them to the world. It isn’t an easy choice, but it is one we make in faith, trusting the God who entrusted them to us. We send them knowing that He goes before them, protects them (physically, emotionally, and spiritually), and brings them home again. We intentionally seek out conversations with our girls about spiritual things. We consistently pray with them and over them about their school friends and classroom conversations. We fervently cling to His sovereignty, fully knowing that each teacher and every classmate has been placed in their lives according to His purposes and plans.

This has been my truth as I have entered the profession of teaching in a public school as well. My administration, my colleagues, my students have all been strategically placed in my life by my sovereign God – who is indeed still doing amazing things through His people and His church in our public schools. It may not be in big, flashy ways, but just as the sunrise silently infiltrates the darkness of night, God is using individuals and relationships formed in the unique venue of the public school to make His name known and glorified.

My school is my mission field. I met a co-worker at Panera this year, where she prayed to receive Christ. I explained why “Good Friday” was “good” when my advisory students asked. I have encountered and loved and shown Jesus to people who I would never see darken the doors of our church – all because I drive through the darkness each morning to allow Jesus to shine His light through me.

I am not perfect. My students have seen me lose “it” (my patience, my professionalism, my sanity) and I have approached other educators with apologies for times I’ve let them down and disrespected them. Sometimes, too many times, my responses are not Christ-honoring, but my prayer is that my authentic relationship with Christ would be seen transparently in the real world setting of my public school, my mission field.

Jesus called Himself “The Light of the World.” He equated His believers to “a city on a hill” where the light that they expel can’t be hidden. In Philippians, Paul tells believers that we should shine like stars in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation. – This is my prayer for my girls and for me as we go to teach, to learn, to grow and to live in the darkness God has placed us each in.

Just as the sunrise reminds me of God’s presence and promises each morning, it also reminds me of the purpose He has given me each day too. I pray that He would use me to reflect His light into the shadows as the sunrise’s golden rays brightly bounce off glass turning the darkness into His glorious light.

Photo by Hunter James on Unsplash

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