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My purpose—custom-crafted just for me

From the April 2, 2007 issue of the Christian Science Sentinel


Was it too late in the game? Shortly before graduating from college with an English degree, I decided I wanted to be a teacher. But without the proper education courses, I would have to take the complicated steps of getting a provisional state teaching license and then completing graduate courses and teaching requirements.

I found myself envying people who'd already mapped out their careers and were their way. Why can't I just feel settled like them? I thought to myself.

When I was growing up, my family had moved around a lot because of my mom's military career. Although I had a happy home life and did well in school, I always longed to feel settled—both in a physical place and in my relationship to a higher power. When my mom found Christian Science during my first year of high school, she told me about healings through prayer that she'd seen a friend have. We also had some discussions about Christian Science, and, before long, began to study and practice the ideas from Science and Health. My study validated feelings I'd always held about having a unique purpose.

Now, as I prepared to graduate from college and work toward a career in teaching, I drew on what I'd learned as I prayed for God's guidance. I knew that comparing myself to others and longing for something more would only keep me from recognizing the good from God already present in my life. Although it wasn't easy, I moved forward with my plans to become a teacher, expecting that God would show me the way. This Bible passage helped me: "Seek ye first the kingdom ofGod, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you" (Matt. 6:33). I decided that my first priority would be to grow spiritually, rather than worry about all the logistics of the job search.

Another passage from the Bible stood out to me as I prayed to hear and follow God's guidance: "Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths" (Prov. 3:5, 6). To me, this meant that the key to finding my way as a teacher was to trust God completely.

I also prepared for my job search by looking for helpful ideas in the book of Matthew. Here I was really struck by Jesus' rebuke of the Pharisees. They were so focused on the rules of their profession. It seemed as if they always missed the spiritual point of Jesus' teachings; in other words, they were living the letter and not the spirit of God's law. I wanted to embody the qualities of a good teacher by expressing the abilities God gave me, and not get wrapped up in worrying that I didn't have the right credentials. This desire was more than just youthful idealism; I was striving to begin my career without letting human will interfere.

After graduating from college in the spring of 2005, my prayers led me to visit elementary, middle, and high schools in my area early in the fall, armed with the proper paperwork and a willingness to be placed wherever I might be needed. I knew this meant I might start as a substitute teacher, or lead a class that wasn't necessarily in an age group I planned on teaching. I ended up on a whirlwind visit to 20 schools in one day, and finally came across one middle school tucked away in a suburban neighborhood, barely visible on the map I was carrying.

The secretary at this school explained that they would like to have me start right away as a full-time substitute for a teacher who was on extended leave. I would be working with classes of both special education and general education students, as a co-teacher in many different subjects. I had always pictured myself on the other side of the co-teaching coin, leading the class rather than assisting. But thankfully, the school secretary said I could let her know at the end of my first day if I wanted to accept the position.

Just ten minutes before the start of my first class, that familiar and uneasy feeling of just wanting to feel "settled" came rushing back to my thought. I didn't want to begin this new job with the slightest feeling of uncertainty. So sitting down in the quiet teachers' lounge, I faced my doubts and fears, and became very still. The thought came, "I'm not ready for this. What am I doing here?" Then immediately on the heels of that thought, a bit of a line from Science and Health came to mind: "... the seed is in itself ..." (p. 508). This comes from a passage about the creation account in the first chapter of Genesis, which describes everything God created as complete. What it meant to me at the time was, "If I'm here, must be ready—I already have all I need."

I found myself envying people who'd already mapped out their careers and were on their way.

I made a list of the pros and cons for taking this job, and, by the time I was done, the choice to stay seemed obvious. The cons, I realized, reflected doubts and fears about my ability, as well as rationalizations about why this wasn't exactly the right place for me. These reasons had to do with a sense of pride, or with fulfilling expectations I felt society had placed on me. On the other hand, the pros revealed this to be a very natural opportunity to use my skills in a productive way to reflect spiritual qualities—which had been my desire all along.

As it turned out, after a month and a half of my working as a co-teacher, the school offered me a full-time position as a language arts teacher—my exact field of study. By then it was so clear to me that prayer had led me into a situation that was custom-crafted just for me by my loving Father-Mother, God. Co-teaching even provided the opportunity to learn from more experienced teachers before taking charge of a class of my own. After about a year on the job, I moved to a new middle school, where I'm currently working, and it's an even better fit.

I've discovered that we really do always have the ability—and the choice—to understand and follow God's guidance, despite the societal pressures and influences that often seem overwhelming. Finding our purpose is not just about getting a job; it's about feeling settled in our permanent and never-changing relationship with God. You could say it's a little like Elijah's story in the Bible—God isn't in the "earthquake" (job change) or in the "fire" (anxiety and pressure), but in the "still small voice" that tells us the truth about our real position in the world (see I Kings 19:11, 12). The truth is that God prepares a unique place for each of us, right where we can do the most good. And He takes care of all the details. ♦


Erin Deyerle loves teaching her eighth graders language arts in Woodbridge, Virginia.

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