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Preschool Teacher
Photo: Anissa Thompson
“Mommy, that’s my teacher.”

“No she’s not! She’s my teacher!”

“She’s mine!”

“She’s mine!”

“No, she’s mine!”

Three-year-old Tamara and her four-year-old sister, Jennifer, were arguing over to whom I “belonged.” My job at the preschool was to relieve the lead teachers for their planning periods and personal breaks and to help with “kid overflow” during certain times of the day. So when their mother came to pick them up, Tamara insisted that I was her teacher because I was with her every day at story time, while Jennifer argued that I was her teacher, obviously, because I was with her class right then on the playground.

Teaching preschoolers that summer, I thought a lot about my relationship with God, and I realized that each of us truly does come to God like a little child.

None knew me very well

Certainly none of the preschoolers knew me as well as they thought they did. Although I worked hard to develop a relationship with each child in the school, none of my students really knew me. To some of them, I was the teacher who served lunch. To others, I was the woman who rubbed their backs at naptime, while some knew me only as the playground monitor.

A small number of the children understood that I existed outside of the school. For example, a couple of them knew I had a daughter.

How true this must be of my relationship with God. I can read in the Bible about His infinite power and love, I can pray for knowledge and wisdom, but the limited capacity of my human mind prevents me from fully understanding the totality of God.

Some never acknowledged my existence

When I spoke to three-year-old Tommy, he just looked at me blankly. By the end of the summer, though I knew him pretty well, he still knew nothing about me.

God is working in my life every minute of the day, but how often am I unaware of His presence? How often do I, like Tommy, fail to acknowledge the abundance of gifts He’s given me?

Some made bad choices

The rule at the preschool was that a child who misbehaved had to spend some time sitting in the “thinking chair. Fortunately, this worked for most offenders after only a minute or two in the chair, but a couple of little boys and girls did more than their share of “thinking” time. One little girl named Angel never did learn to make good choices.
And yet no child was ever more sorry than Angel for a bad choice.

How often do I, like Angel, make choices in my life that don’t honor my relationship with God? Usually, I know what I should do, and sometimes I can’t even explain to myself why I failed to do the right thing. Like Angel, I feel very sorry, I ask God’s forgiveness, and I promise God (and myself) that I’ll do it better next time. Like Angel, I keep trying. And God keeps on loving me anyway, just as I kept on loving Angel.

Most tried to please me

I loved those little darlings, and they tried so hard to make me happy. Though the tactics they employed were varied (the three-year-olds wanted me to see how well they listened at story time; every two-year-old tried to be the quietest one at naptime; the four-year-olds wanted me to notice how well they shared the swings), every one of them wanted me to acknowledge their efforts.

Then they gave me little tokens of their affection. Some of these gifts, I appreciated—Cheerios, a green M&M, a picture they’d made. Some gifts, I could have lived without—47 more pictures they’d made, a leaf, the crust from their peanut butter sandwich.

How do my gifts honor God? I know that I can strengthen my relationship with God through prayer, worship, serving others, and spreading the word of God’s love. But like my students, I sometimes get so involved in the act that I forget to consider the purpose. Sometimes I need a gentle reminder.

It’s hard to know everything Jesus meant in Luke 18:17 when He said we can only receive the kingdom of God by becoming like a little child. Perhaps part of the meaning is that we should have the humility to recognize the ways that we already are childlike in relation to God and accept that we may never fully understand His infinite goodness, power, and love for us. Remember how during your youth, people would ask what you wanted to be when you grew up? Perhaps more of us should say, “When I grow up, I want to consider myself a little child.”

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By Lesa Lank with Marvin Hinten. Portions reprinted with persmission from Signs of the Times, September 2006. Copyright © 2006 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines.

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