I Love a Good Syllabus!

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I walked into room 204, the smell of fresh paint and newly waxed floors lingered from the hard work of the janitors over summer break. Mixed with it was the sense of excitement, a pinch of dread and a tinge of nervous sweat. Some students looked bored. Some apprehensive. Some sat as close to the teacher as they possibly could. Others sat as close to the exit for a quick get-away. 

With my new books, a new backpack, fresh hair and the perfect first-day-of-school outfit, I was the nerd in the front row, ready to absorb all the professor had for me that day. I still am that person. I love to learn! 

It had been a long time since I’d sat at a desk in a classroom ready to learn. Five years to be exact. In those years, I’d graduated from high school, gotten married, moved hundreds of miles from home and back again and had a baby who was now in kindergarten experiencing his own classroom for the first time. 

My brain felt rusty and I wondered how in the world I would keep my 18-credit hour load figured out. Would I be able to keep up? Would I remember what was due when? Would I miss assignments? It was all a bit overwhelming. 

Enter the syllabus. 

Each professor handed one out. On it were things like professor information, course description, goals and objectives, required materials, grade breakdown, course policies, helpful resources and the mother of it all: the daily schedule. I knew exactly what was due and when it was due. There was no mistaking the expectations of what was required of us for the entire semester. It was all laid out in a neat and tidy word document. Thank you, Ms. Professor!

Wouldn’t it be nice if someone would hand us a syllabus for the semester of life we’re in? 

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I’ve been reading a Psalm each morning and ran across this one that says, I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go…(32:8NKJV)

I’ve already told you I love to learn so I say YES! instruct and teach away! I’m also a planner and would love it if God would lay out the syllabus, listing the course description, goals and objectives, grade breakdown, and of course, the daily schedule. Line by line, look ahead, get ahead, know the precise way I should go because it’s all laid out in a neat word document. 

But God doesn’t use a word document with tidy dates, rows and columns spotlighting what you need to do next. He uses His Word which is more like lamplight than spotlight. (Psalm 119:105) He likes to give us just enough light to see the step we’re on. Anybody else out there wishing He would ditch the lamp and shine a spotlight down the way you should go so you would know how to plan your life? (Should I take a parka or a bathing suit? Right?) Heck, I would even settle for the next semester! 

That’s not how this Teacher conducts class. Sigh…

Psalm 32:8 goes on to say, I will guide you with My eye. (NKJV) 

His eye. It sees from a different angle, through a different lens. He can see ahead and know exactly how and when to answer my prayers. Like a blind person I have to learn to trust the Guide, hanging on to His arm as He leads me step by step down the path He has for me. 

That’s not easy for a syllabus loving, learner like me. I want to know what’s ahead, what’s expected, what to expect, every step of the way. Bottom line is, do I trust Him to teach me, to instruct me, to guide me, to show me the next step and not the entire year? Using a dang lamp for a light. 

That in itself is a lesson to be learned. It takes a lifetime of practice because like the real classroom, each semester is different. 

In the meantime…

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What can I do? What can I do while I wait for the next step to be revealed? For my prayer to be answered? While I wait for instructions? 

During a time of persecution and facing the unknown, Paul tells what the will of God is (the syllabus, if you will) for the people of Thessalonica. It’s found in 1Thessalonians 5:16-18…

Be joyful always; 

Pray continually;

Give thanks in all circumstances, 

For this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 

Really? I know what you’re thinking, I want to know what direction I’m headed, what my future is. I need to know what I’m supposed to be doing and you tell be to smile, pray and be grateful. Are you serious? 

Yes. Yes I am. 

Be joyful always. We aren’t talking about plaster-a-smile-while-I’m-hanging-on-for-dear-life but rather a deep sense of peace knowing my Father’s got this and He will show me the next step, open the next door, light the path brighter when it’s time. Joy is a fruit of the Spirit. If I can be joyful always, maybe it will ripen the fruit and will help in the maturity of my faith. It’s not joy in my circumstance but in the Lord that gives me the strength to carry on. (Nehemiah 8:10)

Be prayerful continually. Keep talking to God, even when. Be persistent like the woman in Luke 18 who drove the judge crazy until he answered her. Let your voice be heard then listen. Trust that He hears you and is working things out on your behalf. But keep having conversations. I’ve prayed for things that have happened almost immediately and I have things that I’ve prayed and am still praying about for years. Don’t stop. 

Be grateful. Gratitude is the thing that allows me to receive the gift of God’s blessings every single day. Even when. It’s what opens my eyes to see through a God lens and not my own. It’s what lets me know He’s here. He’s in the sunrise each morning and the flowers that are blooming. He’s in the shadows that are cast by the sunlight coming in the back windows. He’s in the smell of jasmine as I swing on the front porch. I’m with you. I’ve got this. Do you trust me? 

It’s not always easy. Sometimes the last thing you want to do is be joyful, prayerful and grateful in the midst of being lost and not knowing what to do. But if those three things put you in the middle of God’s will, then you’re not really lost at all, are you?

It’s a simple syllabus. Perhaps too simple and I’ve filed it away as silly. But what if it works? What if it helps light up the next step. Are you willing to try?  

This was a great reminder for me. I hope it was for you too. 

kw 

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