Friday, March 9, 2012
The book asked, “What are students?” They wrote, “Teacher’s kids.”
If adults shaped children, on that Friday I was sure mine were permanently scarred from their teacher’s temper. I was furious with myself. Granted, their behavior was far from exemplary, but when my coteacher and friend says, “I’ve never heard you that grouchy!” - well, something is wrong.
But what? What is wrong? 2nd graders are so forgiving. It only takes them about ten minutes to forget that you’ve scolded, and about one to decide they should somehow help you get over your foul mood. Rationally, I knew they wouldn’t be scarred for life from one bad day.
What’s wrong was my testimony. If I’m a picture of Jesus to the world around me... am I saying Jesus is unreasonable when stressed?
My students are a mirror of me. This has a bright and dark side. When I hear them use God’s name in vain, I state lightly, “God is good; don’t talk about Him unless you’re talking to Him.” Last week I heard, “Oh, God,” then another voice, the voice of an unruly boy, “God is good!” Or you might consider the fact that I’ve a room full of hypochondriacs. After every recess during the first semester, I suggested countless times, “How about putting a wet paper towel on your bruised knee/twisted foot/sprained finger/sunburned face?” I shouldn’t have been surprised by “I fell on my leg and now it hurts...Can I put a wet paper towel on it?”
The mirror scared me the day we were practicing for a presentation in which the girls sang, “That Don’t Impress Me Much.” We urged them to act out the words they lip-synced. “Yeah,” chimed in one small boy, “roll your eyes like Ms. Wells does.”
Ouch! Do I really roll my eyes?
He continued, “You know, when we all talk at once.”
I was relieved. I often do roll my eyes when they all talk at once because I have no idea what any one is saying. But how scary to think my every move is their model! What is my testimony? That which they will take away of Jesus.
Last Thursday was a day of stress. It actually started as a perfect morning - until a student threw up about 6 feet out, past another student and across the carpet. He seemed frozen and I tried to investigate whether he needed to throw up again. As I led him across the room, he did not answer - until he again threw up 6 feet out, covering the carpet on the other side of the room. The other 19 students were gagging, but he refused to move. Finally I grabbed a trashcan. Sending him to the nurse was not going to work, so I sent one student for the janitor, yelled across the hall for an EA, handed the flashcards to a student, and sent everybody to sit against the back wall. Then they called indoor recess. Needless to say, we had ours in the library.
Queasiness. Fear. Frustration. Any or all would have been understandable, but by His grace, Jesus was present that day. I just laughed and thanked Him for keeping the others from throwing up, too. I can claim the day of vomiting as a testimony to Who He is.
Not so the following Wednesday. I needed to pay in the office, forgot my purse in my car... The stress of the money transfer made the subsequent play practice far more tense than it needed to be. “One of those days?” my friend asked.
I stopped to think. No, it hadn’t been - until I’d made it so by my own disorganization. What sort of testimony was that? Jesus saw plenty of things going “wrong” around Him, but He didn’t change His reaction to unrelated events.
My resolve to improve my day was tested, by the way, when my lunch didn’t come. When a student knocked a bookcase holding toy money and computer attachments completely over and broke the corner off. When library was late and one student came back in trouble from all of his specials.
What, then, was my testimony? Did Jesus complain over His own lack? Does God stop everything due to our mistakes? Is He angry over accidents? Does He punish others for my sin? Then I could not either.
I won’t lie. I wasn’t smiling; however, I was able to be quiet, to be still and know that God is God, to thank Him for a friend who shared lunch and students who quietly picked up the mess of the bookshelf. My testimony wasn’t of perfection in own strength and patience, but maybe, just maybe it said -
It said what I said to another stressed out worrier the following day, “In a hundred years, it really won’t matter.”
In a hundred years, an unfinished phonics lesson won’t matter. In fact, an unfinished math book won’t matter. A broken bookcase will have disappeared, and a missed recess been completely forgotten. A rare late payment will have been passed on a hundred times, and the child disciplined have grown old and died.
In a hundred years, souls will matter. People’s reaction to a a just God who sent a Savior will matter. If people see me as moody, sensitive, reactive, or angry; if my students see authority as controlling, uncaring, or unfair; if my testimony is not of Jesus, someone may walk away from the true Jesus. I may miss the work of Spirit in drawing souls to Himself. In a hundred years, I’ll sit at His feet. What will be my testimony?
...that they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in all things. For the grace of God that brings salvation hath appeared to all men..." Titus 2:10-11
Today I read of a guy who was shot at the Kurdish school, the one I could never quite dismiss as a possibility even though it seemed a financial impossibility as a service opportunity for me. I looked at his facebook page to read the tributes and I thought, “ Did I miss it, Lord? Was I supposed to go? Imagine all that is happening right now..."
But today God smiled at me. Again. As I had finally immersed myself in my work enough that I wanted to check tasks off the list - said immersion was no easy feat, by the way. My friend voiced the paradox of singlehood as a homebody, “I really want to go home. But when I leave a pleasant crowd of happy people, or I know there is one somewhere, it’s hard to go to my house all alone.” And though I have a million things I want to do, tonight I wanted to go somewhere, be with someone so badly.
The wonderings came again. What is the point? What really matters of all that I do or wish to do? What will have a long term effect? Will anyone really care? My own siblings, in whom I invested more time and effort than any of the other children whom I contact, could care less. A relationship with me means nothing to them. What do I do that does matter?
That’s when God smiled. Now actually, He's done this a lot in the last few weeks but this time, the phone rang. It was a number in my contact list but for a few seconds I let it ring, not recognizing the name. It’d been so long I couldn’t pull the files of acquaintance, but as I answered, I was blessed.
“Rebecca. The card you sent, around Christmas, you don’t even know how much it blessed me. You don’t know what was going on. You don’t know how I needed those words.”
A card, Lord, a card. How do I judge what matters?
All week long, the Lord gives me people to love. My students. My Bible study group. My friend and her children. The community and coworkers. Not that I’m not blessed in return. I most certainly am! They thank me, help me, befriend me - but the fact is the week makes me tired. I am constantly thinking, on guard, aware, planning, plotting... regretting.
And on Sundays, lately, I feel selfish. On Sundays I’m just flat out loved. I talk to people about things that matter to me, just because I want to talk about them. I don’t guard my words or plan my deeds quite so carefully. I’m hugged, I eat, I laugh. A lot.
By the end of a weekday, and especially by the end of a week, all I want to do is sleep, zone out, veg out. If I had a TV, I would waste a lot of time at that point (hello, facebook).
On Sunday, I need sleep sometimes, but I’m wired. I’m excited. I want to be up. I want to go, want to do, want to visit. I cherish watching the sunrise with God while I drink coffee, and I await a nap in the sunshine, but I’m perfectly willing to modify my schedule if it means passing the day with friends.
I read once that the purpose of the Sabbath was to force us to let God take care of things, since we weren’t supposed to. It makes sense. The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath - and oh, how blessed to rest, to know that I am not in control. That may be why Christian friends are such a blessing - they’re easier to trust because they trust Him. Hebrews is clear, though, that those who rest in the Lord rest not only on the sabbath, they rest all week, for - His yoke is easy. His burden is light.