To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. –1 Corinthians 9:22 (ESV)
This verse contains several powerful insights, but one in particular has always intrigued me. It seems that the verse should read “I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save all.” But that’s not what it says, of course. It says “some.” All things, to all people, by all means, to save some. Not all. Some. Paul is aware that 1) It is Jesus working through him, not his own talents or abilities, that saves souls, and 2) Not all will accept and believe the Good News that he shares with them. He recognizes that his most strenuous efforts and greatest sacrifices may only be enough to save a few. Perhaps the most influential follower of Jesus to ever walk the earth acknowledged that you can’t save everyone—but you can save some.
I think this is an extremely important point for all teachers to grasp, especially ones that work in similar fields as my own. By nature, we want to save everyone. We want to think that we can help them, that we won’t leave one behind, that they will all go on to be successful and reach their highest potential. There is nothing wrong with that, but it’s simply not reality. And that’s where we must find a silver lining. Instead of being discouraged about the ones we can’t reach, we need to be encouraged about the ones we can reach. Instead of focusing on what we can’t do, take hope in what we can do. Because at the end of the day, after you have invested every last ounce of energy into the hearts of your students, you should know that lives were changed. Even if that is only one.
Our one surfaced on the hundredth day of school, and in such a cool way. At the beginning of 2018, I had an entire lesson on the importance of setting goals and how to implement tangible methods to reach them. One method that I stressed the most was the value of writing your goals down and putting them in a place where you will see them every day. We did a few exercises pertaining to the topic, but like most lessons covered in middle school, they seemed quickly forgotten. Until last week, that is.
I walked by Felicia’s study carol and saw two pieces of paper taped inside of it. She is an artist and loves to draw, so I assumed it was pictures or poetry or some type of song lyric. But as I paused to read what she had written, I saw that something of much greater importance was happening. If you have followed this blog for any length of time, then you know a decent amount about Felicia’s personality and upbringing. They are both wholesome and scarred, blessed as well as broken. Over the last eleven months Felicia has spent in my classroom, I have watched her go through numerous trials and defeat. There have been moments of hope and glimpses of change, but they were fleeting. So as I stood in the middle of the classroom observing her work, I couldn’t help but see a silver lining wrap its way around those two white pieces of notebook paper…
Her words told me all that I needed to know. I don’t know what Felicia’s future holds, but I do know that she is not lost. She is not beyond hope. And I can’t wait to see what God is going to do in her and through her. When she does fight her battles and gain control of her demons, she will have one amazing story to tell. And that story will impact thousands.
Ralph Waldo Emerson said “To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.” We all have that one. That one who reminds us why we do what we do. That one who motivates us to not give up. That one who convinces us that we are making a difference. That one who makes us believe again. That one who represents a brighter future and a better tomorrow.
We cannot save all, but we can save some. We can save one.