It is the question every classroom teacher regardless of what they teach has been asked in some form or fashion: “when will I ever really need to know this?” And this can be so many different things. It is a reasonable question. If we think back on our days as students, most, if not all of us have wondered at some point why are we doing this? As an educator, I have been asked this question many times over the past 20 years. I can recall, rather vividly, one particular moment I had a student ask me that probing question, and I had an epiphany matched with the right words to voice my revelation. Please understand, usually I am one who would ponder a question for hours and have the perfect answer or the precise comeback… five hours too late. Not this time.
The student (let’s call him Eric) wasn’t being particularly difficult or challenging on this occasion. In fact, Eric was one of those students who was a joy to see everyday and would put forth effort toward any given assignment. We were in the middle of a project that required quite a bit of time and energy: the kind that might be a bit daunting especially for students who might not enjoy British Literature or poetics. He was half-joking as he voiced the question. It came out something along the lines of “why do I need to know this, if I am going to be ________ (something not related to poetry)? My response was more direct than I intended and took me by surprise: “Because right now, that is what you think you will be, I have to prepare you for who you might possibly become.” I had his, as well as the class’s, attention and proceeded to tell them about my road to becoming an English major and ultimately an English teacher.
I entered college as a business/ finance major; I figured that if I worked where the money was, I was bound to make enough of it. Early during my freshman year, let’s just say that many things in my life began to crumble and by the end of that year, my priorities and desires had changed. Almost every aspect of who I was changed. My perspective on life and purpose changed; how I wanted to spend my days changed; who I wanted to be changed. The trajectory of my life – changed. I was becoming someone different than who I imagined I would be. In the long run, it took me away from years that would have been spent in a bank or financial institute and put me into the classroom (and on a few youth floors). Mind you, both of these are noble professions; however, my calling was specifically to work with students.
So, what is my point? How often do we turn to God in the middle of our situations and our struggles and ask, “why do I need to know this, if I am going to be ________?” You fill in the blank. Why must I experience this issue, face this set of problems, or endure this trial? How can this possibly be beneficial? One clear answer to this question is found in the book of James: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” James 1: 2-4.
It is a hard, beautiful truth that God, our loving Father, knows what is best for us – far beyond our scope of the future. Just as Eric inquisitively asked about my purpose for assigning the grueling project, it is okay to ask and even to cry out to God “why?” God is big enough to handle our questions. Putting our trust in God, believing that His view of our future is greater than our own view is what living by faith is all about. Yes, some of these trials we face are scary, life-shaking ordeals; Even so, remember this:
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” Romans 8:28. Class dismissed.