Recently, have you run fingers through your hair, scrubbed your eyes with your palms, and shook your head mid-challenge with a difficult person?

I have runways filled with days like that. Most days.

Three weeks ago, I returned to public school classrooms as a substitute teacher—for the first time in six years. One morning, I stood before a class of noisy, rowdy second graders, and I yelled, waving my arms, punching the focus knobs on the document camera (making the screen image even blurrier), and urging the children to get to work.

8:30 am. Two hours till recess. I blew the bangs out of my eyes. I asked the class for their attention. The din grew louder.

In that chaotic moment, a seven-year-old in the front row creased a page into an airplane, lifted it, ready for trajectory in my direction. Its renegade wings thrust out from a sleek triangular body. Its nose was a sharp blade, primed for take-off. A kid in the back row scowled and snickered.

From somewhere in my distant past, Alexander and his terrible, horrible, no-good, very-bad frown slid into the room. By 8:34, I was ready to hunt Alexander down and string him from the alphabet clothesline by his “T is for toes.”

I needed to regain control. But how? I was cornered in a den of thieves.

I closed my eyes for a teensy second. “Think, Lynn, think. Help, Jesus, help. What are You up to here?”

 I heard an audible whisper, “You’re talking to the kids about performance. I’m not about performance.”

“You’re joking, right? We’re working on a reading lesson.”

 “No, Mrs. Hare. We’re working on a loving lesson.”

“Are You nuts? I don’t see anything worth loving. Did you see that girl roll her eyes at me and lie to me about that computer? And another kid left the room . . . for  who knows where.”

 “Love them for who they are. Follow My lead.”

So I did. One at a time, I took the ringleaders aside. Beginning with Pilot Charlie Lindbergh,  I whispered:

“I like you. I like you when you follow the rules. I like you when you break the rules. I like you when you’re somewhere in between. When I woke up this morning, I didn’t know you were going to be in my day, but you were. And I’m glad.” And, at the prompting of the Holy Spirit,  I leaned forward with a crooked, wobbly smile.

A smile crept over each child’s face.

Here’s what I learned:

  1.  When we want to turn a situation around,  we can surprise people with proactive, unconditional love. Sometimes difficult people are  fearful people. Perfect love casts out fear (1 John 4:18)Perfect love forgives.
  2. God rewards our obedience to love others, even when it’s not reciprocated. Especially then. But when we blow it, God always forgives us.
  3. In moments of chaos and confusion, the fruit of the Spirit of love has authority. Regardless of our emotions, love sweetens the deal. Love always forgives.

Did I feel super spiritual that day? Not really. Once I got home, I cried, worn down by the disrespect the kids had dished out.

But somewhere under the hot tears, in my heart, I knew I’d planted seeds of agape.

And who knows what might happen to that seed? Of those that weren’t snatchified by birds, bouncified off rocks, scorchified by sun rays, witherified by shallowness, or chokified by thorns, maybe, just maybe, they’ll press down into soil, and multiply 30fold, 60fold, or 100fold.

But what if no seed seems to take root?

I’ll just have to trust in the Divine Gardener. And later, maybe ask Him for a ticket to Australia.

Friend, who are the paper airplane pilots in your world? How do you connect with them?

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