I have a system, a routine, a discipline for developing the lesson I teach each week to the ladies in recovery. I have certain "tasks" that I do in preparation for the class on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday evenings, respectively. This week finds me otherwise engaged on both Monday and Tuesday nights, so I am trying to cram much of that work into tonight.
I'm about 75% done. I needed a break.
The first night, I always read over my chosen source material. Right now, I am using a book entitled "The God of Second Chances." It is not as "spiritual" as I had originally hoped. I read the chapter, take notes (I'm a notes freak), jot down ideas for scripture and songs and ice breakers and other interactive exercises as they occur to me (if they occur to me). I try to come up with 3 "big ideas" that serve as the framework for the entire lesson. They become the "sounding board" through which I filter the scripture, song choices and other exercises.
The second night, I look back at all these notes and jottings. I finalize scripture after reading through usually twice as much as I can use on Biblegateway.com. I finalize song choices. I write an "ice breaker." I commit it all to my computer and print it all out, because on Tuesdays, I have to make 70 copies of this "packet" at my church (after staff meeting).
Then Tuesday night, I formally write out the lesson plan, flesh out the "interactive" exercises that I have previously only made notes of in terms of their general format (scenario cards, true/false, fill in the blank, etc.) I read over the scripture and make some notes. I keep double-checking that everything is flowing and meshing with the Big 3 ideas. (It's easy otherwise to go down a rabbit hole)
I remember describing this process to my Pastor one day as I was making copies for the handouts. He seemed flabbergasted that I would prepare handouts for a lesson I hadn't prepared completely. I shrugged. It's my system and for the last 3 years, it has worked.
So this afternoon, I read the chapter while sunning around our pool. Then after dinner, I retreated to my office and stared at my notes. That's when it hit me ... How am I supposed to keep coming up with this stuff? How am I supposed to be inspired on cue?
I spent some time praying, saying the things to the Lord I usually say in these moments. "You know what these ladies need to hear. You know what you want me to say. Open my mind up, Lord, to what you have in mind. Guide me."
Slowly, it's as if the notes begin to rearrange themselves into "sections." The ideas begin to come. The outline is formed. It is slow and gradual and very fast all at the same time. A thought pops into my brain from nowhere. I say to myself, "Where did that come from?" I test it against the Big 3 framework. If it fits, I keep it. If it doesn't, I discard it.
The best part, of course, is when I'm actually teaching. That's when the spur of the moment "pop, pop, pop" starts happening like crazy. I diverge slightly from my lesson plan as I feel led. God is doing something here. It's like I stand outside of myself and watch, thinking, "How fascinating," even as the words tumble out of my mouth. Sometimes I receive truths or clarifications about what I am teaching that seem astounding to me. Sometimes I have to ask myself, am I the teacher or the student?
I confess, I am both.
Writing all this out is lessening my anxiety significantly. (In fact, about half way through, an idea for this week's ice breaker popped into my head and I changed screens to commit it to the handouts I have already started preparing.) I don't know exactly how I continue to be inspired on cue, except that it keeps happening; it somehow comes from God; God moving through me. I don't know how else to explain it.
And I confess -- all anxiety aside -- that I like it.