Finding Peace By Doing Less and Lingering More
As a teacher, I feel uncomfortable–or at least uneasy or slightly off-balance–in the classroom until I can look in each student’s eyes and call each student by name. I teach some large classes–from 40-85 students. The first day of class, when I enter the classroom, I feel distant and impersonal. In recent years, with laptops open and students sitting in auditorium style rows, I see only eyebrows and foreheads as I gaze toward the back of the room. One of my colleagues calls this “teaching to eyebrows.”
I can’t teach to eyebrows. And so, I learn my students’ names so we can engage in class. I learn them so that when we pass by each other on the campus grounds, we can meet eyes and exchange hellos and engage in conversation. I learn their names so that, hopefully, they know, as individuals, that they matter to me. It is up to me, as the teacher, to take the first steps, to create the atmosphere in the classroom and to enter into relationship with them. It sometimes means that I teach less material as I engage the students more–but, as a brilliant teacher who I know once said, it is better to “teach less, better.” The sacrifice of discarding some materials is worth the opportunity to engage students individually and, ultimately, more deeply.
The teacher’s podium, otherwise, is lonely. I need that relationship with my students. But, I imagine my students need the relationship with me, too. I know students sometimes feel invisible and distant, just as the teachers feel lonely and distant. We need to connect and engage.
I imagine our pastors sometimes feel the same–lonely or distant–looking out on a sea of faces hundreds deep. They don’t have a seating chart like I do. They can’t limit enrollment–nor do they hope to. But, I imagine they feel lonely up there or disconnected from those they teach and lead in prayer. I wonder if Christ felt that way too when He taught to the crowds of thousands.
As our pastor said yesterday, we need to “linger” in relationship and not worry so much about efficiency–not worry so much about getting things done. When I linger in relationship–with Christ and with others–and put aside my “to do list,” I find the peace that Christ offers. I do less–leave a few emails unanswered, a few dishes in the sink, a few weeds in the garden, a few chapters untaught. But, I have peace, the peace Christ offers. The peace the world of efficiency and tasks cannot offer.
I can’t teach to eyebrows. I can’t find Christ or love or community in a “to do” list. Just like I need to “teach less, better,” I need to “linger more, better” in my relationship with Christ and others. There I will find Christ’s peace.
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.“