How do we follow Christ’s example and turn trials into learning experiences?
James 1:2-3 reminds us to “Count it all joy, my brothers and sisters, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.” (ESV) But what does that REALLY mean? Most of us don’t immediately default to pure joy when in the midst of trials and tribulations. So what does that look like, applied?
A global pandemic certainly qualifies as a trial. A HUGE trial that affected absolutely everyone at some level. The effects ranged from inconvenience to fear, to despair, to sickness, and in some cases, death. Not all people had the same experience, but the pandemic touched us all in some way. An often mis-interpreted verse, Romans 8:28 explains that “ . . .we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.” (ESV) Essentially, we can be assured that as believers, God carefully intertwines all of our experiences to come together in the Good News of Jesus Christ! Through Him, we can overcome.
Art educators, like everyone else in the world, have learned how to navigate through a global pandemic, while still helping their students learn new and pertinent skills. How then, did we effectively navigate through these trials and turn them into learning experiences?
God equips us to overcome trials by navigating them in a healthy, Christ-centered manner. Titus 2 gives directives on teaching sound doctrine including such qualities as being self-controlled, pure, and kind.
So, here are the top 5 ways we learned to navigate trials through a global pandemic in the classroom:
1. Innovation – We came up with several new ways to keep kids and families safe. One way was to give each student their own “shoebox” of art supplies to use throughout the year. At the end of the year, much to their joy, they got to keep their boxes. Why are we making this a permanent way of life for our studio? It cut down on ALL germs, gave the kiddos a sense of ownership, and was waaaaaay easier for cleanup purposes.
2. Online Options – Our studio caters mostly to homeschoolers during the day, so we now know how to effectively teach our students when in-person classes cannot work out. While we only had one day down for a quarantine because the church we teach in had a potential case of sickness, we were able to make it through without missing a beat. We will definitely be using platforms such as Zoom to make it through future snow days!
3. Communication – We found that parents really don’t read emails or social media posts, especially in a reality where the truth is hard to discern in the news. Utilizing sources like Google classroom, GroupMe, and slide decks have proven invaluable. Now instead of pesky, mandatory parent meetings at the beginning of the year, we will be making a slide deck available on our website for them to view.
4. Upbeat Outlook – People have an innate ability to absorb emotions from each other. We can’t help it: empathy is one of the many things that separates us from animals (that’s a whole other post right there). Our studio worked hard to create an environment that was welcoming and as close to normal as possible. While we had as much distancing as we could, masking was optional, hand sanitizer was abundant, and the teachers remained cheerful, hopeful, and encouraging. When you have an atmosphere of gratitude and joy, the trials are greatly diminished.
5. More Jesus – How DO we follow Christ’s example and turn trials into learning experiences? One thing that stood out this year was an increase on the teachers’ parts to be more intentional about presenting the Gospel through their lessons. While we all tend to seek Jesus out in tough times, we also must teach the kids to seek Him in the good times. To do that, we constantly enforce what blessings we see despite the trails.
Does it really matter if we learn from our trials and tribulations? Can we follow God’s example and take what is meant for evil and use it for good? I believe so, and am even more confident of this now.
Of course, we always look at how to apply these Truths within in the arts, which reminds me of a song by Elevation Worship, Graves Into Gardens https://youtu.be/WJTl2vnF3SE . The song’s message couldn’t be more timely.
As our students grow up and look back on this pandemic, what will they remember? Will they remember the fear, or the calmness and normalcy of our studio? Will they think they’ve been cheated out of an experience or will they remember their art lessons? Will they think of how bad things were or will they reflect on God’s blessings? Ultimately the Gospel of Jesus Christ, that He died for our sins and that through grace by faith we are saved by His wounds, is what will take trials like a pandemic and sprout blessings forth from the ashes.
“In the day of prosperity be joyful, and in the day of adversity consider: God has made the one as well as the other, so that man may not find out anything that will be after him.” (Ecclesiastes 7:14 ESV)