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R ushing to prepare for another day of teaching, I paused for a moment—a breath, really—to ask for God’s guidance in the hours ahead of me.

This habit had grown from my college days where my professors encouraged a healthy relationship with Christ to guide our teaching. Without realizing it, though, my daily prayers had become little more than a fleeting visit to a genie-god who I begged would keep the class from being too unruly, and perhaps ensure that I had something worthwhile to share with the impressionable kids I’d see.

It seemed to be working; my students (mostly) spoke highly of me, the principal praised my efforts, and years went by with my rapport intact. The faulty formula held.

Until … it all came crashing down. First, there was a serious heart condition and seven cardiac procedures. The seventh cardiac lab visit that nearly killed me. Still, I trusted God. I believed I was where he wanted me, and fought my way back to the classroom, despite constant struggles—only to sustain a life-altering brain injury that left me disabled and anxious. It also stole my career. Where was the genie-god now?

After my time in ICU, I returned home to realize that I’d lost the ability to read along with everything else. So began a new life, utterly dependent on my family—and Christ. Determined to regain the ability to read, I decided that I’d plow my way through a “read the Bible in a year” program. Because of my struggles, that one year stretched to more than two and a half, and yet, by the end, I could read. More so, God had met with me through that toil, and I began to know God in ways I never had before. Beyond that, I started to understand my value in him—not in my career.

From a place of feeling utterly worthless, he brought me to a new life.

Today, I’m free to spend more time studying God’s Word, more aware of his movements in my life, and I’m understanding the ways God designed me to share his love. God didn’t steal my classroom from me that day; he merely knocked down the walls and expanded it far beyond the limits of my imagination.

Michelle McIlroy

Michelle McIlroy lives with her husband and two sons on a family farm in upstate New York. She is a member of Delmar Reformed Church, where she is also a disability advocate and a Sunday school teacher.