A Faith Lesson from My English Teacher

Cecil TaylorBy Cecil Taylor3 Minutes

Margaret Smith taught me eighth-grade English. A popular teacher, she was celebrated by her students when she announced that, in her mid-40s, she was getting married for the first time.

A month after her wedding, Mrs. Cox (her new name to which we students were still getting accustomed) did not show up for class. The whispers started, carrying a tragic message: Our teacher’s husband had died after falling asleep while smoking.

We didn’t see Mrs. Cox for a few weeks while she grieved. When she came back, I can recall Mrs. Cox controlling her emotions to tell us the story and to say her faith would carry her through this tremendous heartbreak.

I am sure Mrs. Cox influenced my understanding of English, but what I remember is how she influenced my understanding of life. Tragedies happen. God is with us. We carry on.

And one more lesson: People are always watching you, just as we students were watching for our teacher’s reaction. You can talk about your faith, but what do you do when it’s tested by life’s circumstances?

Jesus set out for us this goal of being seen, being watched, in order to bring glory to God, in Matthew 5:14.

You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden.

I’ve seen the truth of this phrase in many ways throughout my life, especially as a preacher’s kid in a small town; everyone is watching you to see if you’ll do the right thing or the wrong thing. In the big cities, there is some anonymity, but people are still watching.

I taught my kids that people are often watching for someone to do the right thing, and then they will follow; that’s a great lesson for facing peer pressure and going out on a limb to do the right thing as a teen. When our family faced a long-term layoff situation, I told my kids that people were watching us to see if we retained our faith in dire circumstances. I feel like this inspired our family to hold together and follow the Lord in tough times.

Perhaps my teacher, Margaret Smith Cox, was in my subconscious when giving those family lessons. She certainly modeled for me what it’s like to lean on your faith in the worst times of your life.