Three weeks ago, I started a new assignment. For at least until the end of next May (and hopefully for years to come), I'll be teaching a scripture study class to a group of roughly a dozen teenagers. The class goes from 6:00 to 6:45 every weekday morning, Monday through Friday, and is held at our local church building. I don't get paid for this, unless you count the deep peace and joy such service brings.
Most of these kids have learned about our religious beliefs and practices at weekly Sunday meetings and from their parents at home, but none of them have ever studied the scriptures in such depth before. It's an eye-opening experience for them, and I love seeing their faces light up when they learn something new and feel its truth.
I took this same class (called "Seminary") all four years in high school. I remember my Junior year of Seminary especially well. I'd get up at 5:00 a.m., shower and get ready for school, and get picked up by a quiet farm boy who played Varsity football. He didn't say much, but he was there every morning in his father's rusty pick-up truck. I'd hop into the cab and slide onto the vinyl seat, and we'd drive on through California's Central Valley fog until we got to the chapel.
Once there, a marvelous young father named Rob Falke taught us the gospel. Who the prophets were, what the Savior did for us, and how to find our own answers to life's biggest questions. Brother Falke, as we called him, had a deep love for the scriptures, but he had an even deeper love for the students in his class. Every morning, he looked us each in the eye and grinned, making us feel warm and welcomed. He never blinked at what anyone wore or said. He just loved us, generously and without condition. (And he often treated us to Fail's Donuts, the most scrumptious pastries in town.)
I've thought of Brother Falke often in the past three weeks--I've remembered the huge impact he had on me as a teenager. I knew he would love me no matter what I said or did, and to feel that from someone not related to me was a big deal to me back then. It still is today, thirty years later.
And now I know how he felt. I look into these sleepy faces gazing up at me as I teach, and I love them. Unreservedly. I'd walk miles for any one of them. And I hope they feel that, especially as the newness of the year wears off, and we're in the early morning trenches together.
I limit myself to one hour per day for lesson preparation, which is difficult. I could easily spend all day, every day researching historical context and the light that etymology can shine on doctrine, for example. But I have to keep a balance, reserving time for writing, housework, mothering, and wifing. I have no desire to burn out. I'm in this for the long haul.
Seminary is a relentless calling; I must make time to prepare every single day, no matter what. The alternative is to show up before the crack of dawn with nothing to give my students in exchange for the sacrifice of their time and sleep--and that is simply not an option.
So I've made a new routine for myself, and I'm chugging along, day in, day out. It's challenging, like any new routine, and I want to do my best for these great kids. I want to pass on my love and devotion and faith; my goal is for my enthusiasm to spark their own. My hope is that, thirty years from now, these kids will look back on Sister Perkins with fond memories, and will have built their own testimonies and lives on the sure foundation of the gospel of Jesus Christ. If I can play even a small part in that process, I'll be richly rewarded.