A seven-year-old in the front row of a classroom creases a page into an airplane. He lifts the aircraft, primed for trajectory in my direction, renegade wings thrust from a sleek triangular body, nose a sharp blade of precision. A kid in the back row scowls and snickers.
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 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.
The paper airplane bounces off a whiteboard and disappears.
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 second. “Think, Lynn, think. Help, Jesus, help. What are You up to here?”
I heard a whisper in my heart, “You’re talking to the kids about performance. I’m not about performance.”
“You’re joking, right? We’re working on a reading lesson here.”
“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 kids aside. Beginning with Charlie Lindbergh, I whispered:
“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. I just like you. When I woke up this morning, I didn’t know you were going to be in my day, but you are. And I’m glad.” At the prompting of the Holy Spirit, I leaned forward with a crooked, wobbly smile.
That smile spread over Chuck’s face.
Here’s what I learned:
- 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.
- God rewards our obedience to love, even when it’s not reciprocated. Especially then.
- In moments of chaos and confusion, the fruit of the Spirit called love has authority. Regardless of our emotions, love sweetens the deal. Love always forgives.
Did I wear a superhero cape that day? Nope. Once I got home, tears dripped from my chin.
But somewhere under those hot tears, in my heart, I knew I’d planted seeds of agape.
Hey, who knows what might happen to that seed – you know, those that weren’t snatchified by birds, bouncified off rocks, scorchified by sun rays or chokified by thorns?
Maybe, just maybe, some miscreant seeds will make their way down into the soil, and multiply 30fold, 60fold, or 100fold. It could happen.
But what if no seed seems to take root?
I’ll just have to trust the Divine Gardener.
And later ask Him for a ticket to Australia.
Rise to freedom!
Order The Quest for Self-Forgiveness on Amazon here today. Let go of the past and embrace yourself with heartfelt grace.