“A Praying Teacher” – Part 2
They’ll never change. He’s lying. She’s cheating. This isn’t worth it. They’ll never pass the test. I should quit.
These are the words of cynicism. Words of discouragement, frustration, and – most of all – doubt.
Are you living a doubtful life? Are your words rife with anxiety over the present and the future?
Then I bet you’re cynical. Here’s why, and how to heal.
1. You’re Tired of Finishing Last
Following the rules sucks. Cheaters get ahead and liars always escape. So we begin to believe that the only way to succeed is by cheating and lying, too. We doubt the goodness of the truth.
“Our personal struggles with cynicism are reinforced by an increasing tendency toward perfectionism in American culture.” Paul Miller’s words in A Praying Life sting with truth.
As teachers, the perfectionist world demands that we never lose anything – never miss appointments – grade everything yesterday – and maintain exemplary behavior all the time. We can’t do it.
So we lie. And we cheat.
But just a little.
2. You’re Consistently Disappointed
“Cynicism kills hope. But Jesus is all about hope.”
Who can be hopeful in this world? Politicians never keep their promises. Nor do some friends, some children, some spouses.
Dreams die every day. Expectations fall and fall until we pretend to expect nothing. Any ounce of hope that comes our way is squashed by the truth that “we know”: it’s all going to pot anyway.
3. You Got Old
We pray for something. A healing. Money. A job interview.
And it happens.
For a moment, we feel that childlike burst of joy, a Christmas-morning explosion of belief and joy.
But then – we know better. It would have happened anyway. We explain it. It’s all logical. The prayer didn’t really matter, anyway.
4. You’ve Forgotten To Say ‘Thank You’
If you taste bitterness in your heart, perhaps the words “Thank You” have long since gone from you to the Lord.
Because like those prayers that were going to be “answered” anyway, there is little to be “thankful” for. You worked hard for that measly paycheck. You built that house yourself. And those students behaved because you did what you had to do.
Thank God He didn’t get in your way.
5. You Can’t Repent
When you make mistakes – and how could someone so busy NOT make a couple small, insignificant mistakes? – when you make mistakes, excuses and defenses pour out of you (This is my specialty, let the record show). The only reason you slipped – just a little – was because too much is expected of you. Everyone else should just let up.
And the disconnect grows between who you are and who you think you should be. And to bridge the gap, we build excuses and reasons.
6. You Can’t See Jesus
Instead, you see the gay marriage debate. You see contradictions in the Gospels. You see evolution and the Big Bang Theory and science. It all makes you tremble and stammer.
But you don’t see Jesus.
Cynicism has time for debates, arguments, and issues. Miller writes, “The cynic is always observing, critiquing, but never engaged, loving, and hoping.”
Are you weary of carrying a heavy, critiquing heart? Are you tired of being exhausted by teaching simply by thinking about it?
7. There is Hope
“A praying life is just the opposite [of cynicism]. It doesn’t take no for an answer. Prayer is feisty,” (emphasis added).
Are you a feisty pray-er? A feisty teacher?
The journey out of cynicism is a long one. But the steps are paved with joy and rest – and you will begin to hear your Father’s voice calling to you once again.
For one day, keep a notepad with you. On it, keep track of every time you think, say, or do something that is cynical – doubtful – in nature.
- Think: What are my thought patterns? What situations make me most doubtful and negative? Which situations erase all doubt?
- Say: To whom do you lie/cheat, even just a little? To whom do you defend yourself? And then, to whom are you willing to express your doubts and complaints about God/Fate?
- Do: What sins did you struggle with? How were you selfish? How were you proud of any lack of sin?
Your completed notepad has the potential to break you – or inflame your arrogance. Instead, meet it in the middle. It is a picture of who you may really be. The total sinful you.
And Jesus is wild about that person. That sinner is his child, his beloved. He’s coming to get you, no matter what.
Take the next step of the journey and pray over the list. Just have a conversation, like a kid with Daddy.