by Jeanni Ritchie

From the time I was a little girl, I’ve wanted to make a difference in the world. My idealistic heart sought to change the lives of everyone around me for the better, to make the world just a little brighter for all. 

I’d often falter, bringing the storm clouds in my own life to those around me. It’s easy to begin seeing yourself and the fruits of your labor in a negative light, especially if you are around those who point out your shortcomings. 

But there is always One who redirects you to the truth: you are fearfully and wonderfully made. (Psalm 139:14)

Sometimes He even sends reminders through others!

I recently reached out to several former students, some from almost thirty years ago. I was working on a presentation on classroom management and I wanted to use their comments to show the lasting impact an educator has on students. I’d hoped I’d get a response or two. 

The messages that flooded my inbox were restorative to my soul. I had made a difference, some in ways I’d never known. 

A common theme was that I always talked to them like “real people” not kids. I do that to this day, whether I’m speaking to a 2-year old or a 99-year old. It’s in my hardwiring. God is no respector of persons and neither am I. All people are God’s children, regardless of age, race, societal class, or ability and my conversations mirror my convictions. 

Another sentiment I heard frequently was how encouraging I was. In the classroom, I encouraged everyone. It was my job. There were no favorites, no choosing who got my motivating words or who deserved my cheerleading efforts. Everyone received the same measure of support. 

Yet in life I’ve become selective in the name of mental health self-preservation. I’ve cut off toxic people from my life….AND my prayers. I’ve served as judge and jury to their qualifications of encouragement from me. 

I need to go back to school! 

It is likely those who don’t want me in their lives who need my prayers the most. While God clearly told me to go with grace away from those who attacked or spurned me, He never told me to stop lifting them up in prayer. I did that on my own, my wounded heart often secretly hoping comeuppance would befall them instead. 

No good teacher wished failure on any of her students, even the behavior-challenged ones. 

I must put those who’ve wronged me back on my prayer roster. Not only is that what Jesus would do for them, it’s what sets my heart free from those roots of bitterness that are designed to keep us from the fullness of Christ. 

You can’t make a difference in the world by selectively choosing who is worthy. Are you a just a person who does good? Or are you a disciple of Christ?

The command in John 13:34-35 has no caveats, no exclusions: A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.

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