For the life of me, I can’t remember how I came to this conclusion with my Algebra IA students several years ago, but somehow, I ended the equation I was demonstrating with, “See, Jesus is in the equation.” At the time, we laughed–but we also saw the truth in the statement. This week, when my pastor spoke at our school chapel service and asked, “How many activities are you doing that you can only explain by Jesus?,” I thought of that moment in Algebra when we saw that Jesus was essential to the equation.
During chapel, Pastor Max Wilkins told about a time when he was ministering with an elderly nun on the midnight streets of Ft. Lauderdale. While she dealt with a women-only situation, he was left alone, leaning against the side of a white van in the middle of a street with crack dealer bookends–and he was disrupting sales. Max watched as cars drove up to the dealers, noticed his presence, and quickly drove off. It wasn’t a happy situation. When one of the dealers approached him angrily, Max performed his own last rites and awaited his fate, but the dealer used words instead of weapons.
“Why are you here?”
Max’s reply surprised even himself.
“I have no earthly idea. I guess I’m here because Jesus wants me to be.”
Because Jesus. What are you doing today that only your relationship with Jesus can explain?
In a few months, we will be vigorously exploiting the statement “Jesus is the reason for the season.” It’s catchy; it rhymes; it should be true. I find myself saying it because I want to remind myself why I am rushing around stressed out trying to get list after list accomplished–because, in reality, many of my activities at Christmastime are because of tradition, not Jesus.
On the surface, most of the things I do are because of Jesus. If Jesus hadn’t saved me and made me into one who trusts Him and desires to serve Him, I never would have married a widower with four children. Not that I didn’t fall in love with this widower, but who in her right mind would enter this situation without Jesus? I walked into it sensing God’s direction and pleasure–and was surprised (and often defeated) by the “excellent opportunity for personal growth” my husband had advertised while we were dating. (Love is both blind and deaf, apparently, because I didn’t pick up on the hint.) If I didn’t have Jesus, I never would have survived those early years. Or that day a week ago.
It’s definitely because of Jesus that I teach. I can’t love anyone enough in my own strength to pour out my life for them in the way a teacher must. It’s also because of Jesus that I write–because He gives me the passion (and because He’s usually teaching me a lesson that I reflect on and share via my writing, which means I have an endless supply of subject matter…) and because He makes it clear that He loves me despite me (which allows me to be transparent about my failings and, I hope, to encourage others).
In fact, because I need Jesus so much to do these things, I could be a walking billboard for 2 Corinthians 12:9:
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me (NIV).
But it’s easy to get into habits, routines, comfort zones, the same old same old and forget that we are doing things because of Jesus. Sure, Jesus has been developing character in my life and so some reactions and actions are simply ingrained in me through years of learning His ways. I’m glad of that. If I had to purposefully think through the basics of Christ-like behavior instead of being somewhat (and only somewhat!) on autopilot with those issues, I’d never be able to live out the bigger things outside my routine that He calls me to do. But if I remain where I am comfortable, I often forget I am there because of Jesus, because I can often do it in my own strength. It is those stretching activities–usually outside my comfort zone–that make me consciously cling to Jesus. That make me realize I am only doing this because of Jesus.
It’s like a student learning algebra because of teachers. If a student comes into my class having truly mastered basic arithmetic, he has a much easier time grasping algebraic concepts. He can move forward–though he still needs a teacher. His background–a result of other teachers–and his teacher (perhaps me, perhaps an author of a book) allow him to move outside his comfort zone and learn more. He does more than he was able –because of teachers.
Even more so, I teach algebra because of Jesus. After nearly 15 years teaching the course, I have mastered the concepts within it. I am familiar with the book. I have created lesson plans and assignment sheets and built in activities that I think will engage a student and make a lesson stick. But I always encounter a student who asks the hard question or simply doesn’t get the lesson “as is.” And because I cling to Jesus and admit my need for his wisdom in teaching, I am stretched, but able. And, like Pastor Max, I can surprise myself by the answer I am able to give this student or by my sudden unique idea for teaching the lesson in a way the student can understand. God at work. In me. Because of Jesus.
You may have heard people exclaim, “It’s all Greek to me” when they don’t understand something. Maybe algebra is like that for you. If so, then you easily will see that Jesus is in the equation, because in Greek, the symbol X means Christ, and in algebra, we often are seeking the value of X.
Christ = X.
In life, we are often seeking to be equal to a task. Because of Christ, we are able, because whatever the task, Jesus is equal to it. But we need to keep Him in the equation.
How is your algebra?