Rocks, Lambs, Bruised Reeds, Smoldering Wicks and Other Matters
Matthew 4:19: “Come, follow me,” Jesus said,
I don’t know if you pay a lot of attention to directions or other information. I know I don’t. Whenever anyone asks me when something is happening at church or where we were meeting, I never know. I can always ask the director (my wife Becky) and that seems to work out well except when someone asks me for information. I kinda figure out what’s happening when about the time Becky leaves to go to church. That’s my reminder that something is about to happen.
This even affected these devotionals. I was singing “Blessings” to myself early last week and thought, hey, I’ll write about that since we’re singing it Sunday. I even put it in my Friday Biscuit City blog that we were. But we weren’t. We sang “He Is the Rock,” which, if you will remember, is a very different song from “Blessings.” Sometimes I’m observant like that.
Anyhow, I was a week early with thoughts on “Blessings” and I could have written about “He Is the Rock” for this piece, but I like to look forward and I’ve already written about “Blessings.” So, I was thinking about “He Is the Rock” after we sang it Sunday. I think that’s why I goofed up in Sunday School last Sunday. Let me tell you all about it.
Because I just can’t do one thing at a time, I am one of the teachers for two (by actual count) Sunday School classes. I alternate between them, working with twenty-somethings one week and with first and second graders the other week. I am comfortable working with teenagers and adults, but have much less experience working with children. I wanted to learn how to better in case there was a children’s class teaching emergency or something. My nearly nine months in working with children (actually four and a half months’ actual experience) has paid off. Amy told me they were desperate for subs at the elementary school where she teaches and said I should sign up. See? A recommendation from a veteran elementary teacher! I suppose that with a little more experience I could be Elementary Teacher of the Year. However, I’m not ready yet. Under the influence of “He Is the Rock,” I didn’t handle a situation in the class very well. No one was hurt or traumatized, but I wish I had it to do over again.
I was teaching the children this past Sunday with the able assistance of Michael Hill, and after snack and a reiteration of the story of Gideon and a fun word search related to it, we made paper airplanes (representing the angel who visited Gideon since angels can fly and so can paper airplanes). We then took our airplanes to the playground to fly them during recess time. They didn’t really fly that well, so the children left them on the ground and went about enjoying themselves on the playground in their usual manner, trying to injure themselves on various pieces of playground equipment. Fortunately, everybody survived recess, so we went back to the room so they could finish their word searches (I think I used a word search that was too difficult, but they like a challenge). I pulled out my Martin D-18 I had brought so we could sing some songs while they worked. Actually, I’ve found that the children don’t sing along with songs like “Deep and Wide.” They like to listen, even to me, but they really like to dance to the songs, and play games like “Freeze Dance” where they dance until the music stops and then they are supposed to “freeze.” If they don’t, they’re out. I think they would play “Freeze Dance” all day although that doesn’t happen because their parents come get them before the sun sets or my hand cramps up, which would come first.
So, I was playing my guitar when a boy who had been singularly inattentive and uncooperative all class suddenly became very interested in my guitar. I think he had never seen one, and he showed his excitement by coming over and smacking hard with his fist on the body. I stopped playing and said, “What are you doing?”
“I’m seeing what it’s made of,” he said.
“It’s made of wood, and if you keep that up, it will be made of little pieces of wood. Please back up!”
He backed away a bit but then, as the rest of the children danced their hearts out, he came back and started twisting the tuning machines. This has a derogatory effect on the tuning of the instrument. I stopped playing, and the children stopped dancing. No one moved, but when I didn’t continue playing, they called out “Play some more!” Glad they like music. Bet they like it better in tune.
I said to my young friend, “Go away!” He responded by backing up a step.
I was telling Becky this story and she, out of her experience working with children, suggested I could have handled the situation better. And I should have. Instead of being a rock, I should have been a lamb. She said I could have said something like, “I don’t need a helper right now.”
It occurred to me that this is the sort of thing Fred Rogers would have done if some child had come up and done his best to disassemble his instrument. I took this as a sign that I needed to respond differently, even when a child has irritated the fool out of me for over an hour. I’m supposed to be in the business of being Christ to these children, of encouraging them, of not breaking off the bruised reeds or quenching the smoldering wicks.
I promise I’ll do better. The guitar is insured. A child’s future isn’t except in God’s hands and with the right words and loving actions from God’s helpers.