semper reformanda

Let us know; let us press on to know the LORD...
Who I Follow

I teach Latin. I read classics. I indulge in letter writing. Even acquaintances predicted that I would have a, “vintage, Jane Austenish sort of wedding.” 

Along that vein, I’ve been told that I have an, “old soul.” I do not precisely know whether people mean that I’m mature or that I act like a crochety old lady. Either way, I prefer to interpret it as a compliment and mentally group myself with things like empire waistlines and the smell of old books. 

Chronological Snobbery
Because of this, I’m in danger of something called Chronological Snobbery. Chronological Snobbery is a logical fallacy in which something is deemed better or worse because of its time of origin.

For example: “Calvin’s Institutes is obviously a better systematic theology than Wayne Grudem’s because it was written during the Protestant Reformation.” While it is true that the Institutes was written during the Protestant Reformation, its time of origin has nothing to do with whether Calvin wrote a better systematic theology than Grudem. He may have. Or he may not have. But the time of his writing is irrelevant.

Old School
In my context, it’s easy to do that with classical education. “We’re following the type of schooling that was developed by the ancient Greeks and Romans.” The inference here is that because classical education has existed for the past 2000+ years, it must be a better model than any of these newfangled, wishy-washy educational methods. Dewey be damned and all that.

While I love that what I teach has been taught for centuries and that, in learning from intellectual giants of the past, I’m able to think through thoughts first posed by Socrates and Augustine and Sir Isaac Newton, the traditionalism of classical education is not enough to validate it. Older is not always better. I don’t want to adopt Greco-Roman religion just because it’s older than Christianity.

After all, I have a savior who existed before time began. #intentionalirony

New Generation
However, snark aside, I do think that classical education, specifically classical Christian education, is the best teaching model available today. Classical Christian education seeks to discover truth, goodness, and beauty in God’s Word and world. I am challenged to train excellent students as a joyful celebration that God has endowed us with His Image. We don’t read classics to become haughty. We read them because, in doing so, we can enter into the Great Conversation and talk about questions related to the meaning of society, justice, beauty, truth, and sin. By doing this, students learn how to think for themselves.

Is that not what our society needs? The world is a very different place than it was one-hundred, fifty, or even ten years ago. We don’t know how it will change, and we can’t live expecting that life and society will stay just as they are. We need people to rise up who know how to think and how to articulate God’s immutable truth in the midst of a relativistic world. That’s what classical Christian education aims to do: not so that our students will save the world but so that they will point to Jesus as the One who will.

Today marks one year since I finished student teaching. At that time, I was happy to be done, ready to graduate, and uncertain that I’d be able to handle the responsibilities of a full-time teacher. I wondered to an extent whether I’d deluded myself into thinking that God wanted me to be a teacher in the first place. But, what other job could my degree get me?

For the most part, this was nonsense. My grades and supervisor feedback were good. I’d already gone to an interview at a school in my area, and they were going to have me come in and teach a demonstration lesson. But, even so, I was plagued with insecurity and doubt.

Fortunately, that school—which eventually hired me—was not terribly interested in how I was feeling about teaching at the moment. Rather, they believed more in what they saw God doing in me than in what I thought about myself. And since being at my school, I’ve learned to trust more in His work among broken people than a ‘fake it till you make it’ attitude which promotes insincerity rather than integrity.

I work at a school that accepts my mess and rejoices in God’s work in my life. Convinced that I’d be found out as an imposter, my heart was put at ease the first day of faculty orientation when the headmaster told us, “You are all here because, in one way or another, you have expressed a desire to be sanctified.”

In that, I strive to be a better teacher than I was last week, last month, last year. But it’s a pursuit driven by joy rather than desperation. I am in a place where it is safe to try and fail and try again. Where I have incredibly supportive administration and colleagues and parents and students.

I think of myself as a “next year teacher” because I want to grow into the teacher that Christ wants me to be. Rather than allowing myself to be consumed with my failures, I look ahead and expect His good work in my heart. Even if I don’t grow in heart and mind and spirit as instantaneously as I sometimes desire, I have the hope that He who began a good work in me will perfect it until the day of Jesus Christ (cf. Philippians 1:6).

However, this in no way means that I’m ready to ditch this first year. I’m excited for this summer as a time to transition and rejuvenate and prepare for September. But I love where God has me right now. I’m glad to figure out how to deal with restless children who sense the finish line approaching. I will miss their boisterous greetings and sweet smiles. I may even come to miss handing out missing work slips each Friday (hopefully not!).

In Christ, I can be grateful for my past, my present, and my future. I know that even if I don’t know what I’m doing or where I’m going, He certainly does.

God willing, I will be getting married three months from today.

In contemplating that throughout the day, I’ve experienced a wide range of reactions: excitement, longing, nausea, dread. The first two are normal and expected. The other two may be just as normal but are certainly not as celebrated.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m happy to get married. God has done so much to sanctify Ben and I to the point where we can pick a date and start planning our eventual life together. I am so ready for all of that to happen.

With all of its joys and frustrations, engagement is a glorious state to dwell in—temporarily. Ben and I are at this crux in our lives between the life we’ve always known and this wonderful, terrifying, humbling, crazy, awesome thing called marriage. We get to see how God has prepared us as individuals to sacrifice a measure of our independence to serve Him together.

So, in anticipating marriage, I have this tangible picture of what it means to anticipate Christ. Right now, I don’t see Ben nearly as much as I would prefer. And even when we are together, there always comes that point when, yet again, we have to say goodbye. The logical part of my brain tells me that those goodbyes shouldn’t be getting harder. After all, we sure have practiced. But in reality, those goodbyes are yet another reminder that we weren’t designed to be apart from each other.

It’s the same with Christ. Sometimes, prayer doesn’t seem like quite enough. My Bible doesn’t seem like quite enough. And it’s not that those things are not sufficient. They are. But, just like the engagement period, they’re meant to be temporary. One day, Christ will return for His church. He will take her to Himself as a bride and begin the best marriage in all eternity.

But the one thing I’m realizing about marriage is that I’m not going to be able to get away with my habitual selfishness. Today, it was something along the lines of, “I’m going to have less than 12 Saturdays left where I can hide in a corner and read all day. Ben is such a jerk. Why would he take those from me?” Because, of course, that has to happen and Ben is marrying me specifically to take my books away. Exactly.

From there, it digressed to, “Abbie, that was selfish. With that kind of thinking, you’re going to be an awful wife. I don’t even know why you think you can do this. Do you have any idea what you’re getting Ben into?”

Sin is sneaky, isn’t it? I seized on this petty little thing as a platform to first villainize Ben and then sink into a puddle of insecurity. I cycled through that on and off throughout my day. At times, I decided that Ben’s existence offended me because he was somehow threatening my independence. On purpose. I couldn’t articulate why. But I felt the truth of it, okay? At other times, I flirted with the idea that it would be better for both of us if I wasn’t around. I knew that I couldn’t force myself to be the kind of wife that he deserves. So why be in the way of someone who could do a better job?

In the midst of this, I texted Ben to give him a general heads up about what was going on in my heart. He responded as the sweet, loving, dependable man I agreed to marry.

I was smitten. Yes, my heart was overwhelmed with love. But I also felt like a fireball launched from a catapult had just crashed into my chest. He simply told me that he was praying for me and asked me if there was anything I needed him to do. He didn’t say, “You’re dumb. Stop it” or “Not again…” He didn’t lash out with anything like, “It makes me feel awkward and unwanted when you start questioning the validity of our relationship.” He showed love without reproach.

The reason why Ben can respond the way he did is because, in committing to marry me in three months, he’s committing to love me as Christ loved His church. He knows that I’m a mess. And he somehow sees it as not just a duty but a joy to tackle that mess with me.

In dying for hopeless sinners, Christ took our sin on Himself. He made our mess His responsibility. And, “for the joy set before Him He endured the cross, despising the shame…” (Hebrews 12:2 ESV). As a result, we get Jesus’ righteousness and a restored relationship with God.

I might be frustrated because I can’t snap my fingers and fix my selfishness. I might panic because I know that I won’t be able to be a perfect wife. But I’m not supposed to fix those things. If I could, then I would rest in the pride of my own effort. Rather, I am called to submit in all willingness and humility to God because He’s the only one that can change my heart.

When Ben and I say “I do” in three months, we are making a commitment to love and serve each other. But we in no way can make that commitment on our own strength or willpower. Rather, the confidence behind those words will come from knowing that the Spirit of God in us is working to conform us to the image of Christ as we seek to do everything—even marriage—to the glory of God.