Teacher Appreciation Day: The spiritual lesson my mathematics teacher taught me

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Written By Dianna Hobbs // Spiritual Lessons

In honor of National Teacher Appreciation Day, I'm sharing a story about my favorite teacher and how he taught me a lesson that has enriched my spiritual life, though that wasn't his intention.

Mr. Galeza, my middle school mathematics instructor, remains my favorite teacher of all time.

While math was never my strongest academic subject, he made it seem easy. Things just clicked for me when he was teaching the lessons. One of the most valuable insights Mr. Galeza ever gave me, however, didn’t exactly have much to do with basic algebra. I learned something even more useful at the conclusion of a surprise test.

“There’s a piece of paper on your desk,” he said that day. “I want you to turn it over and read all ten questions on the page before answering anything. Even if you know the answer, do not write it down until you have read every question.”

My left leg bounced up and down rapidly beneath my desk as I burned off nervous energy. I didn’t like pop quizzes or that sort of thing. Not knowing what to expect, for some reason, always formed an anxiety-filled knot in the pit of my stomach.

“Be sure to follow my instructions exactly as I gave them to you,” Mr. Galeza continued. “Alright. Turn your papers over and get started.”

Immediately, I knew the answer to question one. I couldn’t resist, so I jotted it down. Same thing with question two. I frantically wrote the answer with my yellow No. 2 pencil, feeling excited. There wasn’t a single item on the whole handout that stumped me. By the time I reached number nine, that nervousness dissipated. The questions were so easy—like what-color-is-an-apple kind of easy—I was wondering why we were even being asked such basic things.

And then... I read question ten. My stomach dropped. My left palm went to my forehead. My eyes got big. My mouth fell open. I realized my mistake. It wasn’t ever about the questions I answered. It was all about number ten, which said, “Put your pencil down. Do not answer any of the questions on this page. If your paper is blank at the conclusion of this test, you have passed.”

I was mortified and upset with myself. But before I could get too down about it, I heard a bunch of other people responding verbally, indicating they had also made the same blunder. Moments later, the classroom full of non-direction-following pupils, filled with laughter. I think only one or two students did the assignment correctly.

“You see? It’s about following directions,” Mr. Galeza said, already knowing the majority of us would jump the gun and ignore his directives.

“That’s an important principle in math and life,” he said. “If you can’t follow instructions, you’ll fail.”

I never forgot this lesson, and it has helped me both naturally, and spiritually. Day by day, and more specifically, in our walk with the Lord, we each must be willing to submit to instruction, accept guidance and heed wise counsel in order to get to our place of destiny.

A fitting scripture for you to meditate on today is found in Proverbs 3:6 KJV: “In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.”

If you seek and obey God, there is no limit to what He will do for you, in you and through you.