I ignored the warnings for months. The first was a quiet, almost imperceptible nudge. Then came stronger recognition. Finally, last fall, when asked for a prayer request, my answer reflected a growing awareness. But still, I pushed those warnings aside.
For those who teach or preach week in and week out, you’re probably familiar with this trap. Even if you don’t bear the title teacher, you are one. You teach by example. You teach by conversation. You teach your children. You teach your employees or coworkers.
The trap is real for all of us.
The teacher trap is the belief that the lessons and illustrations you identify as you study the Bible are for the benefit of others in your life.
And, boy, did I ever fall for it.
Preparation to teach a large women’s Bible study every week requires certain routines. One of my regular practices involves identifying principles and illustrations related to the Bible passage I’m teaching that week. I’m always on the lookout for something in my own life or in the lives of others to reinforce the lesson.
Problem is, that became my sole focus.
- Clear principle on the need to live dependent on the Holy Spirit? Filed.
- Good illustration on the need to forgive? Noted.
- Concise principle describing the effect of serving others? Included.
- Effective illustration of the importance of a vibrant prayer life? Got it.
I began to sense the problem last fall when a friend asked how she could pray for me. “Pray that I apply what I’m studying before I try to teach it,” I told her. I hadn’t planned on saying that. The words slipped out before I had time to think. I realize now it was the Holy Spirit trying to get my attention.
The culmination came this past December, when I sought my new “one word” for 2017. If you’re not familiar with the practice of one word for the new year, the concept is intended to replace new year’s resolutions. In place of resolutions that often fail to survive through February, we prayerfully select one word to influence the way we live for the year.
My word in 2015 was release. In 2016, it was joy. In December of 2016, the Lord gave me the word hope for this new year. Despite multiple confirmations, I questioned the selection. I didn’t see immediate application.
That’s when I fell into the trap. After puzzling about it for a week or so, I concluded this was to be my word in 2017 to encourage others. To extend hope for those discouraged by their circumstances. To convey hope to those vulnerable to despair.
The teacher trap.
Just a few days into January, I learned the reason for my word. My husband was diagnosed with cancer. During the past month we clung to hope as we navigated hospitalization, surgeries, tests, and more tests. We cling to hope today as we evaluate treatment protocols and weigh options. And we will cling to hope in the coming months as we do our part and trust the Lord for whatever results He chooses to allow.
God graciously prepared me for the new year with just the right word.
As I write this, I’m again reminded of my prayer request last fall. “Pray that I apply what I’m studying before I try to teach it.” Today, even more than then, it is my heart cry…first as a child of God and then as a teacher.
May it be the heart cry of every one of us who study and teach God’s Word.
What is your experience with the teacher trap?