I should have counted. I’m pretty sure I heard the above question about 12 times today, but it may have been more. Today was my first teacher workday back at school after summer break. It was great to see my friends and colleagues looking trim, tan, and well-rested, as we usually do before the stressful school year commences. Without fail, every person with whom I entered into conversation today asked within 30 seconds, “Are you ready?”
I didn’t think about the question much at first, but after a while it really started to bother me. I felt the question building in intensity, breathing down my neck each time it was asked. “Are you ready? Are you sure you’re ready? Are you absolutely, positively sure that you are completely ready to teach those students who are depending on you to be prepared for any and all life circumstances involving synecdoche and Shakespeare??!!!!” At first, I was casual, nonchalant in my response. “Sure I’m ready!” Then it became, “Well, depends on your definition of ready.” Then it disintegrated into, “Well, I guess there’s not much I can do about it now!” Eventually, I was bogged down in a mire of self-doubt, worry, and fear.
A hot bath, a good dinner, and a long walk with my husband calmed my shredded nerves and helped me relax. Then again, maybe not. Maybe that’s why I’m up blogging at midnight. I’m plagued by the thought that I’m not fully prepared for the career that I’ve always wanted. This is my life goal, my end game. Some people dream of being astronauts or movie stars or presidents. I dream of effectively and transformationally teaching literature from a Christian worldview to high schoolers. I have fought my way through many classes–19 to be precise–over the past five years. Some have been in the realm of English and some not. While I’ve enjoyed logic, yearbook, church history, and other classes, nothing lit my fire like showing a Brit Lit class the allusions to Nebuchadnezzar’s feast that we see in the banquet scene in Macbeth. This is what I was born to do. So, I’m ready, right? Hardly. I have so much that I want to accomplish that I already feel like I’m setting myself up for disappointment and frustration. I can’t accomplish all I want to, and I won’t give up. What option do I have left? Picking up one foot, moving it through the air, and setting it down one step ahead of the other foot. Then taking another step. Over and over, day after day, week after week until my task for this year is complete. If I think about the marathon, I panic. I can only think about the next mile.
My father-in-law was the last person of the day to ask me the infamous question, and I finally found the right response. When he asked if I was ready, I replied, “I’m ready for this stretch.” It will take a lot of perseverance, patience, effort, and most importantly, complete and humble reliance on the grace of God. I’m not doing a job; I’m fulfilling a calling. Because God is the one who has called me, He will provide what I need for each day. Maybe, like the manna in the wilderness, it will only be enough for that one day. But maybe short-term grace over a long time will keep me coming back to Him and will prevent me from slipping into the subtle sin of self-reliance. Maybe it will force me to call out to Him each day for mercy and grace and help in my time of need.
Maybe it’s a good thing that I don’t feel ready.