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Knowing When to Quit

On the side, I sometimes tutor high school students, usually in chemistry, but have done most subjects. I usually get a call a day or two before a test and the student needs to review the whole unit, so it turns into a marathon session.

It is amazing to watch the moment when the student shuts down from overload. They are unable to figure out each next step of a problem without coaching, even on problems they know how to solve. They make dumb mistakes. Their eyes are glazed. When you hit this point, it is time to stop, mid-problem even, tell them to go to bed, get rested and tackle that problem from scratch in the morning.

Recognizing signs such as these, and being able to use student body language to guide instruction is a key aspect of good teaching. Is the student at overload really, or just thinks they are and need to be pushed into a second wind? Are they ‘getting it” or need a new approach? Are they bored and ready for the next level? Are they bored and need to switch subjects? Do they just need a good swift motivational kick? Are you tracking with each other and having ‘learning synergy?’

Likewise, part of being a good student is recognizing similar clues from the teacher and responding to them.

Recognizing when the Lord is trying to teach us something is a similar skill. Are the situations in our lives just the normal outflowing of daily life or something deeper—“God trying to ‘show’ us something?” How would you expect to differentiate between the two? Or, maybe, God simply uses the daily grind as a continual refining process, and it doesn’t matter, really, if this is a divine trial for our benefit or discipline or just life.

It seems to me that rather than trying to read the divine tea leaves to see all of the potential spiritual messages that might be hidden in circumstance, we should just live our lives. Keep in prayer, Scripture, worship and fellowship, and let the Master Potter shape you as He will, without trying to step outside ourselves to predict the direction of His handiwork.

It seems that we 1) get it wrong at least half the time, and 2) have a tendency to try to ‘help God’ get to the next stage. This is a bad combination, like moving during a haircut when you only think you know what the barber/hairdresser is doing.

It’s like dancing, when the woman doesn’t trust the man to lead and keeps looking behind her or stutter steps out of fear of kicking or bumping into someone. Takes a lot of the fun out of it for both parties.

Perhaps, this is what Jesus means by ‘abiding.’ “Child, let Me do the refining and shaping. Stay close. Live your life, and let Me direct your steps.”


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