Everyday Disciple: Danah

This post is part of an on-going Everyday Disciple series. We're celebrating here what it looks like to follow Christ faithfully in the day-to-day. I am thankful to share the stories of gracious friends and readers, and I have sought to preserve and honor their voice in the post below. I invite you to join me as we listen to their experience as an "everyday disciple."

Danah is a precious friend. I appreciate her thoughtfulness and humor, her care for her students, and her esteem of the power of words. It also doesn't hurt that she often brings delicious tea and fluffy dogs in tow. I'm delighted to share her thoughts with you today. 

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I was originally a chemical engineer. I worked in bioengineering for a few years before going back to get my Masters degrees in teaching and in literature. I honestly don’t know exactly how I got here, teaching high school English at a Christian school. It’s the farthest thing from what I thought my adulthood would look like, but I have a strange and overwhelming sense of clarity in my understanding of how each and every step, intentional and accidental, that I took leading up to this point has been leading me to the job that I work right now.

I teach 10th grade World Literature at Lexington Christian Academy. Essentially, I walk a group of teenagers through a year of trying to understand, relate to, and interact with art and stories from people who are sometimes quite different from us.

I LOVE working with high schoolers. They are this hilarious, enigmatic blend of child and adult. Sometimes they are poignantly aware and insightful with regards to the world around them, and then, in the next moment, they are unexpectedly bewildered, lost, or overwhelmed. They make me laugh, they ask hard questions, and they are hungry to understand life.

There is also an element of my job that involves explicitly spiritual mentorship. Students will approach me to discuss their faith or personal lives, ask me to pray with and for them, and challenge the beliefs that are being taught.

Not only do I have to keep my disciplinary skills sharp, I have to always be ready to listen and respond to students who are wrestling with the reality of the Christian life in the modern world. I have to hear, understand, and relate to their very real experiences.

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I learn a lot about my personal relationship with Christ by watching students navigate their faith walks and staying sensitive to how the Holy Spirit guides me to support their faith walks. I think I get a tiny, infinitesimal glimpse into what Christ must feel when I come to him lost and overwhelmed and confused. I take my inspiration on how to handle my students from how I feel Christ handles me in those moments.

Something I love about high school is that, in my admittedly small classroom, I am very tangibly molding the future of our country, our world, and our church. I am shaping the hearts and minds of the individuals who will one day take the reins of our society.

When the news overwhelms me with its stories of hate, judgment, and violence, I find my work satisfying and necessary because it feels like the only thing I can do. I may not be able to address the events I saw on the news, but I can talk about it in my class, read poetry about it, and predispose the hearts and minds of my students to be gentle, humble, and kind in similar situations.

The school that I work at espouses a belief that resonates with my own goals for my life. The belief centers around R.C. Sproul’s statement that “all truth is God’s truth.” We, and I, believe this in our core.

The literary discipline is all about the search for truth. What is true about humanity? What is true about our existence? When you respond emotionally, psychologically, or sometimes even physically to something you read or write, where is the truth at the heart of that? When we try to communicate with one another through our words or our compositions, what is true about how that communication works and connects us?

All of these things are the questions that drive my discipline, and so, in seeking after literary truth each day, I find that my days center around seeking after the nature and heart of the Creator of that truth. In reading words and images straight from the hearts of people from all over the world and carefully, respectfully mining those for truth, I am guiding my students through a process of finding Christ in the world around them. I am teaching them how to recognize truth when they see it, which, in my opinion, is one of the greatest spiritual disciplines.

I often hear people say things like ‘It must be SO nice to be able to use the Bible in your classes. It is a work of literature after all!’ It is nice to be able to be open about my faith, but I really don’t use the Bible that much.

I do work in a Christian school and I care deeply about my students’ faith lives, but I am not a Bible teacher or a spiritual life director. I am an English teacher. My job is to teach them to write and read well and to find God’s truth through those skills. Good readers and writers know how to find the truth in all great works of literature, and that is what my job is about.

If you would like to be a part of this project, I would love to hear your story. Contact me for more information.