Recently, some of my students asked me a question I’ve heard dozens of times since I began teaching. Perhaps it was because of the circumstances driving the question or perhaps it was because I’d already had the spark of an idea for this blog post—regardless, I answered their question differently than I have before.
At the beginning of January, I contracted COVID-19. I was out of school for roughly three and a half weeks. Given the digital nature of our new learning environment, I intermittently taught remotely as I was able. Per the nature of the illness, I returned to the classroom still wrestling with aftereffects. One class—in response to an accommodation I’d made for my weariness and with reference to my serving them virtually while out sick—asked that perennial question I’m certain all teachers hear: “Is this because we’re your favorites?” I instinctively retreated to the standard teacher response: “You’re all my favorites.”
A Deeper Underlying Question
But in that moment, it just clicked, and I suddenly heard a new question hidden within the first. I suppose it’s always been there—the question entwined with the former, audibly dominating the discourse, and the latter clinging to the first as nothing more than a whisper of sentiment: “Do we matter? Do we have value?” With this new insight, I continued, “This isn’t really about favorites, though. I did it because you’re worth it.”
You are worth the hard work and sacrifices I strive to put into my calling as a teacher. But you’re not worth it because you made eight baskets in the recent game against our athletic archrival. You’re not worth it because you actually do your work and make my vocation easier. You’re not worth it because you’re so likable—even if you do have those moments when you drive me nuts in that special way you usually reserve for your parents. Your worth comes from something so much greater than me and any favoritism I deny.
God Says You’re Worth It
You’re worth the precious air you breathe because the Creator of the universe puts that air into your lungs, just as He did with Adam so long ago. You are worth the precious, holy, innocent blood of Jesus Christ, who displayed His love for you on a Roman cross so long ago. You are worth the victory over death and the promised crown of life as Christ’s co-heir to eternity. You’re not worth all these things because of your skills, abilities, delightful attitude, or good looks. Neither are you unworthy of all these things because of your lack of skills and abilities, your grumpy attitude, or physical imperfections. You are worth it because the one true God—who ascribes all value in creation—declares that you have value. He created you in His own image, and that comes with an inherent value that can never be measured or taken away. He sealed that value in the waters of Baptism as the Holy Spirit joined your value to Jesus’ own death and resurrection. You’re worth it because of whose you are!
You Are Known; You Are Seen
God’s children are all different. Some draw greater attention to themselves, whether for inspiring reasons or discouraging ones, but each one of you is worth it.
I see you, student A, fading into the background, overshadowed by the bombastic nature of your friends. They get the attention, but you are still worth it. I love you, student B. You seem to carry a chip on your shoulder, and I have to hold you accountable when you push the boundaries, but you’re worth walking the tightrope between frustrating you and showing interest in who you are as a person. I respect you, student C. I know this learning stuff is just not your “jam” and you’re bubbling over with frustration at how hard this stuff is.
The demands and the distractions of my job often undermine the priority of giving voice to your value. Please hear that now loud and clear: the reason I do this job is not because you’re just a means to my financial or prideful ends. I do this because of your infinite value. I do this because you’re worth it!
Your students need devotions that remind them of their infinite value.