I remember the last time I taught Introduction to Biblical Counseling in Rankin 101 on Wednesday, April 26, 2017. I finished the 1-hour 15-minute class, and about a third of the students lined up to say their goodbyes. They knew our family was moving to Houston.
Near the end of the line was a senior who always sat in the back. He wasn’t a counseling major, so this was his first and only course with me. When his turn came he shook my hand, said “thank you,” and told me what he appreciated.
But he said nothing about scintillating lectures, an erudite reading list, or cutting-edge pedagogy. He didn’t mention my personality or anything listed on my CV.
What did he say on this final day of class? “I appreciate that you remembered my name.”
Wait, I thought. I spent more than a decade in graduate school, labored to prepare for this particular course, agonized over the syllabus, carefully selected the teaching topics, went back and forth about the reading list, and showed up to teach all semester, and the moment you appreciated most is that day I called you by your name outside of class?
Small moments are gateways to big influence.
This senior wasn’t downplaying knowledge and training and intellectual prowess. He wasn’t implying that a well-constructed syllabus is a waste of professorial energy. He wasn’t hinting that he could take or leave my lectures. What he was saying, whether he knew it or not, is that there’s a lot more to education and influence than the occasions we tend to assume matter most.
He was saying that there are no small moments in life and ministry.
The new year begins this week. Educators across the nation are gearing up for another crack at this thing called education. Students who are known and loved will soon be flooding back into elementary schools and middle schools and high schools and colleges and universities and graduate schools.
If that’s your world, just remember that you don’t have to be anyone’s superhero. You don’t need to win teacher of the year. You don’t have to have a colleague’s personality or position or vita. But what you do need is to be awake and alive each moment, filled with love and guided by the Holy Spirit, eager to engage and serve each student or parent or colleague who crosses your path at the very moment they’re crossing your path.
Never wait for the big moments to have influence, because you don’t know what they are. The “big moments” are actually the small moments that God makes big by sovereignly crossing your influence with a student’s need in a way neither of you could predict or replicate. That’s where the magic happens.
The magic of education happens in the mundane, because there is no mundane. It’s all magic, waiting to happen. So don’t waste a moment of it. Stay alive. Stay awake. Stay in love with the job God’s given you and the students he’s sent you.
If you want to be an educator, spend your pennies well. Love people in the smallest moments. Because there’s no moment too small to glorify God, and no moment too small to shape a student.