Marathon Girl and I teach the 14-18 year olds in our church for an hour each Sunday. We enjoy the teaching anywhere between 5-8 teens each week. Our students are smart, well behaved for teenagers, and, for the most part, want to be there. I've learned a few things from teaching this class. One is that the better prepared our lessons are, the more enjoyable the class is for everyone. So Marathon Girl and I spend about thirty minutes each night preparing the lesson and discussing what we'll share with them. The result is usually an valuable in-depth lesson that I hope is valuable to our students.
Last weekend the subject was relying on the Savior for overcoming adversity. I was looking forward to teaching this lesson and sharing what I've learned from losing a wife and daughter with them. We're close enough with our class that I felt comfortable sharing some personal experiences with them.
Saturday night arrives. It's 9:30. Marathon Girl and I are putting the final touches on the lesson. I feel good about this one. I know the subject well and supporting scriptures well. I'm looking forward to class the next day.
Then the phone rings.
It's another member of our church. Apparently the teacher who teaches the adult class won't be able to make it tomorrow. The caller asks if I can take my class to the adult class and teach them the lesson I've prepared.
Usually this is something I'd be happy to do. But this time I hesitated. I knew the lesson I had prepared was going to be very personal. And while I was comfortable sharing this with my small class, I didn't feel comfortable sharing it with the entire congregation.
Odd, I know. I've been blogging off and on about the whole widower thing for three years and writing a book about the experience. And anyone that knows me can simply type my name into Goggle and learn all about me. So you think I wouldn't have any qualms about sharing parts of my story with people in church. But for some reason I was hesitant to share any of these experiences with my neighbors.
I tried very politely to weasel out of teaching the other class. But all my excuses were for naught. I was the only one on such short notice who could teach the class. I hung up the phone and told Marathon Girl about the call. She didn't seem nearly as bothered about teaching the other class as I.
"If you think about it, you're the perfect person to teach this lesson," she said. "Maybe there's a reason things turned out this way."
That wasn't the answer I wanted.I went back over my notes for the lesson and tried to reorganize in such a way that I wouldn't have to share anything persona. It wasn't working. The lesson wasn't going to work unless I shared something personal.
Sensing my frustration, Marathon Girl sat next to me.
"You've told me many times that you think things happen for a reason," she said. "Maybe it's not a coincidence that the other teacher couldn't make it. Maybe there is going to be someone tomorrow that needs to hear about what you went through."
I mumbled something about not using my own words against me and continued to review my notes.
Sunday morning came. Marathon Girl, Aidan, and I headed off to church. I couldn't concentrate through the first hour of services. I kept reviewing my lesson, trying to find a way to take any personal experiences out of it without any success.
Then came time to teach the class.
As I stood up to start the lesson, I realized this was the Sunday that everyone decided to show up to church. I estimated there was about 90 people in attendance.
I waited for a moment hoping for some kind of miracle that would excuse me from the class like a meteor to come smashing through the roof of the church or the fire alarm to go off.
Instead I had 90 pair of eyes staring at me, waiting for me to begin.
I took a deep breath and started teaching.
And the lesson went well. Very well. Much better than I hoped.
After the lesson I felt I had said the right words and those words had touched someone who needed to hear about my experiences, as hard as they were to share. Maybe Marathon Girl's was right.
Maybe there was a reason the regular teacher couldn't make it.
Maybe there was a reason I needed to teach that lesson that day.
Maybe there are no coincidences.