Living So God Can Use Me

Each month, we post a series of blogs around a common topic. This month, our blog features reflections on vocation, offered by people who are engaged in ministry and work outside the church. What is God’s calling on our lives outside of the church? What is difficult about being Christian in the working world? How do our churches nurture a sense of Christian vocation? We invite you to join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter!

by Suzanne Newsom

I am a veteran teacher in a public school. I do not recall lining up my teddy bears and baby dolls as a child and teaching them in my pink bedroom. The catalyst of my teaching career was a mission trip to Haiti sponsored by the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Presbytery. As an 18 year-old recent high school graduate, I traveled there in service to a remote village with a group of 14 others. At the end of that summer, I would attend UNC-Chapel Hill with plans to obtain a degree that would more than bring me financial security. The person who applied to go on that month long trip was a feminist who saw that only young men had traveled there on missions before. I traveled to Haiti to prove that women are strong. I returned with a stronger spirit for social justice and a humbled heart. That spirit moved me to become a teacher.

img_0338“I want to live so God can use me.” These are the words to one of my favorite hymns. God uses me everyday at Olympic High School where I teach English.

My faith supports me every day, all day, helping me to make decisions that, I hope, are ordered by God’s will. Each morning as I drive to work, I turn off the radio on the final leg of my journey. When I am at a loss for words and am afraid that I will lose my usually calm composure, I set my mind right with “Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in thy sight, oh, Lord, my rock and my redeemer.” That little silent prayer is long enough that I can take a few deep breaths and then say what needs to be said in a tough situation.

While we public school teachers are not to talk about our faith or our politics, it is my hope that my students know that I am a Christian because what of what I show them. Curriculum is everything that happens in a school. Students see teachers when they are before the class and when they are not. Their eyes are watching us as we help each other and help them. I can make my faith a part of their curriculum without having a lesson plan about it.   

My life is rich as a result of teaching thousands of students in Charlotte. Their resilience is inspiring. My hope with each class is that we can build a community of people who feel welcome to share their questions and challenges as we learn together. Selwyn Avenue Presbyterian Church is a place where I can share myself and learn with others. I am challenged each week to apply what I glean from each sermon preached and hymn sung. I have learned that the more involved I am in church, the more the church is involved in me. So, I take my faith with me into my classroom and try to make each day an act of worship.

suzanne-newsomeSuzanne Newsom teaches English at The Renaissance School of Arts and Technology at Olympic High School in Charlotte, NC.  She was raised in the loving arms of Selwyn Avenue Presbyterian Church, where her family still worships.