Substitute teaching has not left me unscathed. I realized this after Lindsay and I returned to the ranks of the subs last week. Shortly thereafter, I found myself reading the Bible through a subbing lens.
Psalm 86 says, "There's no one quite like you among the gods, O Lord, and nothing to compare with your works." This implies that there are lesser gods, if you will; and before I could stop myself, my mind was racing to find a metaphor.
The conclusion came quickly, and it ran as follows: Inferior gods are like teachers who play to the kids. These are the ones who cut corners and are more concerned with “being friends” than forming character, more focused on keeping things pleasant than teaching. Relationships are superficial, based on merely getting along. Inferior gods have no backbone; they make few real demands.
These kinds of teachers (gods) form students (worshippers) who are ultimately petty, impatient, and sniveling. Transfer this picture to a lifestyle or culture, and it dwarfs the classroom. Imagine a people who expect instant gratification, who are obsessed with entertainment, who frown on prolonged self-denial. Sound familiar? These are the worshippers of lesser gods. And the gods are molded by their audiences.
I can see the principle in microcosm when I come in to substitute teach for ‘Mr. Smith,’ and am greeted by a crowd of narcissistic students. Under the benign dictatorship of Mr. Smith, the students have become a crowd of little punks. But the concept holds true, I think, when people venerate Materialism, Naturalism, Atheism, etc. These are pushover gods made to order—they let you do and be whatever you want. The realization comes: No wonder these gods are "not like" the God of the psalm-writer - they aren't really gods at all.
The revelation of Jesus Christ to me has been inescapably shining—his love has been transforming and sweet—but he has always remained God. Life is lived on his timetable, things are done his way. Usually, this is the hard way: the way that spirits are actually changed, and character formed. Jesus doesn’t cut corners.
Therefore, with an unyielding mercy, God acts like a wise and dedicated trainer—or a kind and persistent teacher. For this reason, a lot of people will stumble over Christ and go look for a less demanding god. But in the end, some of them will wonder why they are not satisfied by pleasures that fall far short of heaven.