I work as a substitute teacher in a couple of area school districts. This is actually the second time around. I tried it about 20 years ago, when I was much younger and very clueless – needless to say it didn’t go well.

In the decades between then and last year I worked as a preschool teacher and raised two kids. Both those experiences made me better at interacting with children and using what my kids call the “mom” scowl. (Don’t underestimate the disciplinary power of a good scowl!)

As I did those first early assignments, my attitude wasn’t right. I had been trying to prove my worth by, among other things, what job I had. Substitute teaching felt like the bottom rung of the ladder, and I was a bit ashamed to be doing it. And I lacked the humility to learn from my mistakes and misjudgments. I was miserable every day, and I’m sure the students could tell.

Luckily, by the time I decided to try again last year, God had taught me a few things. There were two especially faulty beliefs I had been holding on to.

  • I was trying to impress everybody, especially myself, by what I did
  • I was expecting perfection in every area of my life

Do either of those sound familiar to you? If they do, you know how exhausting they are to lug around all the time. And you know how they keep you feeling bad about yourself.

So how did God start breaking me free and getting me ready to sub again? For starters, He changed my focus. In my old mindset, I was very me-centered: How do I look? Am I good enough? Compare that with fixing my gaze on God, and seeing His majesty, feeling His acceptance.

Then, He helped me grow in humbleness. I thought turning up the pressure to perform would motivate me to stop making mistakes. But the only thing that did in the end was make me more anxious and discouraged. God wanted to show me grace and grow me in wisdom instead, but I had to drop the illusion of becoming perfect.

As I drove into school this morning, I prayed for God’s help to be a servant to the teachers and children, and for His Holy Spirit to be in the classrooms. And as I looked over the teacher’s plans for me, I reminded myself that doing my best was enough.

It was a good day.

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