by Danny R. Von Kanel
In the midst of a career change, God called me to accept His plan and look for unexpected fruit.
Something seemed amiss … I had been faithfully serving as a full-time music minister for 32 years. I loved my work. I was good at it. Though I had my share of struggles in church life, I had always imagined retiring as a full-time music minister.
That was not to be. Arriving at a church in North Louisiana, I soon realized after eight months that the church was not happy with me, nor was I with them. Coupled with living five hours from grandchildren and our inability to sell our house, we decided to move back home.
Finding work now consumed my thinking, limiting any time to consider what we had done. Though I hid it from my wife, I nurtured deep-seated anger and resentment toward God for moving me away from what I loved.
Attending worship only added to my misery. After 32 years of leading worship, I now sat in the congregation, watching someone else do what I had always done. It was hard. Though I managed to conceal my deep hurt, I longed to be back in the pulpit.
Churches never called. In the midst of decision making, my wife and I determined to seek work near our home. Yet I knew such a decision would paralyze any attempt to find church employment.
Feeling my two degrees qualified me for nothing but what I had been doing, I pursued an ancillary certificate to teach in the public schools. Miraculously, at age 54, God opened the door to teach music at a middle school.
Then the bottom fell out. School started. My students were rude and disrespectful. My weakness as a disciplinarian magnified my despair. I cried out to the Lord, “Why Lord? Why did You put me here? I’m not a teacher!”
I gazed at the white boards, full of music terms, questions about music history, bell-work assignments, and a haphazard display of a review game. Somehow, my grade book and green disciplinarian forms, lying alongside the whiteboards, seemed significant.
“But what does it all mean, Lord?” I whispered, holding back the tears. “Can I really make a difference in the lives of these seemingly non-caring students? Will my teaching fall on deaf ears? Is it really worth the effort?”
That afternoon proved life changing. As I envisioned my Lord sitting next to me, I said to Him, “Jesus, I hate this job. Why did You bring me here? There’s no reason to feel this way, because You did give me employment. My wife is happy. You’ve given us so much. And here I sit bemoaning my circumstance.”
“Why do you hate this job? Don’t you realize students are listening?” He asked. “What about those words you said last week?”
“What words?” Then I remembered. I had told my class, “Each of you is very
My students have been placed before me by God’s design to teach, inspire, and love as God loves me.
special. I can’t help but like each of your personalities.” A girl in the back row said, “Oh that is the sweetest thing that has ever been said to me.”
The Lord quietly asked, “What did that student ask you yesterday?” I knew what He was thinking. The boy had asked, “Mr. Von Kanel, what do you credit for staying married to your wife for 32 years?”
I love these kids. They need me. I need them.
Knowing this was a teachable moment, I quickly asked for the students’ attention, saying I wanted to tell them the answer to this question.
I said, “Thirty-two years of marriage has happened for three reasons: one, we both serve the same Creator; two, we put each other first; and three, our love goes deep.”
The class broke into applause.
Jesus then said, “And what did that student say after class?”
Yes, I remember her encouraging words: “Mr. Von Kanel, your speech was so inspirational.”
It was then I knew God was pressing home the same words my wife had been saying for weeks: “Teaching at this school is more a mission field than any church.” I was confronted every day by 200 students, and I had an opportunity to impact their lives.
As I thought about my students and the miracle of each one — their laughter, their struggles, their needs — something warm nudged my heart. I love these kids. They need me, and I need them.
“Lord”, I cried out. “These are such special students!”
The Lord smiled, “Yes, just like you.”
Leaving school that day, autumn leaves sprinkled the ground. I was reminded that my students have been placed before me by God’s design to teach, inspire, and love as God loves me.
Stepping into my car, I whispered, “God, thank You for this opportunity. Never again will I see this career change as a burden. It was all in Your plan.”
I had embraced God’s design, but He had another special surprise. A few weeks later, a church called, wanting me part time. Now I’m back in the pulpit. The journey couldn’t be sweeter. Unexpected fruit has come from an unexpected career change … all from the plan of God.
Danny R. Von Kanel is a freelance writer with hundreds of published articles and two books. Von Kanel teaches school in Natchitoches, La. He has five grandchildren and enjoys reading, writing, and spending time with family.
This article originally appeared in the June, 2012 issue of Mature Living. Subscribe