Saturday, August 28, 2010

Mrs. P sure hit a jackpot this year, said my fresh-out-of-the oven second-grader after coming home from her first day in school, a tinge of resentment coloring her surprising announcement.

What do you mean?

She got all the kids from Mrs. D’s last year’s first grade class,
she responded. After slight hesitation, she added, And I am all alone in Mrs.K’s class.

I let her statement resonate with me for a while.

I could visualize the wild and crazy bunch of party animals consistently torpedoing even the best of Mrs. D’s attempts to instill some academic prowess and social graces into them throughout the entire last year. I couldn’t help but wonder if Mrs. P would agree on my daughter’s assessment of her class roster fortune. But, I decided that I don’t need to say anything about that.

I also knew that for now it would do no good to explain that Mrs. K comes with the superb recommendations from teachers, students and parents alike and that soon enough she would learn to love being under Mrs. K’s tutorage. Time will do that without my annoying assistance.

Nor did I want to jolt her memory by reminding her of how much she hated being in Mrs. D’s class exactly a year ago. Some of us have a harder time of dealing with change than others.

And, most certainly I wasn’t going to say that a huge part of me was tremendously relieved and grateful that the school administrators put a tad of distance between my little ring leader and her faithful band of rule-busting followers. Although I don’t mind my children enjoying their school life, I don’t see filling-up their fun tank as the primary objective of educational institutions.

But, despite all this, my heart couldn’t help but empathize with the classroom woes of Minnie-Me. How many times have I felt resentful when God’s developmental plan for my life didn’t match my desires? Everyone else gets to have fun while I am stuck all alone in this god-forsaken (or so it seems!) classroom of life, trapped with the Teacher I find too quiet and different for my taste, despite His superb recommendations. His syllabus for me encompasses some of the weirdest courses on the planet, like hearing the inaudible or seeing the invisible. Year in and year out, we wrestle over the issues of sovereignty and surrender; dignity and humility; judgment and mercy. His determination to teach me goes past all my whining and complaining. When I crave the noise and the glittery sillybands of peer praise and acceptance He creates a wilderness to help me find company in solitude. When I discover contentment and even happiness in this wilderness, He sends me into a mass to help me find equally elusive solitude in the crowd. And so it goes day after day, until my soul rests in the bosom of this utterly Other, learning to trust His goodness and care for me even when what He does makes no sense.

So, what do I say to this daughter of Eve… to this child of God? How do I invite her to join me in this unparalleled journey of grasping the incomprehensible which fulfills His destiny for her life? Perhaps I don’t need to say anything. Words are grossly overrated anyway. Maybe all I need to do is point the way by the manner I learn my lessons, in hope that some day she will see and know the Teacher for herself and learn to find the rest for her heart and her soul in Him and Him alone.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Mrs. S., this is not working!

A young man’s exclamation instantly sent my brain into a feverish review of all potential things that could NOT be working, hoping desperately it’s something I already knew about. The day before we had opened up our house and our back yard to our neighborhood kids as hosts of Backyard Summer Club – a four-evening, volunteer-empowered event designed to give elementary age children an opportunity to meet Jesus in a fun, creative and inviting way. When fun and creativity collide with hordes of people of all ages, one should expect casualties.

What is it? I asked trying to sound calm.

There is a big pile of dog doo in the middle of your yard, and all these kids are running around barefoot!

I looked out and saw dozens of kids and teenagers throwing Frisbees and kicking balls around the backyard lawn. Somebody must have let the dog out and apparently failed to pick up after her.

Oh, my! Thanks for letting me know. I’d better get out of there right away.

I grabbed some plastic bags and rushed out of the door but unfortunately just seconds too late. For, there, in the middle of our yard, I found the dog pile all flattened and few steps away from it a little boy standing covered in shame and embarrassment.

Ewwww, he stepped into it! Cried out several others.

The boy’s eyes were quickly filling up with tears.

It’s O.K., hon – it could have happened to anyone. I’ll take care of it.

I ushered the unlucky winner of the The-Grossest-Thing-That-Happened-to-Me-During-the-Backyard-Summer-Club award to the side of the house where I rinsed out his feet with water. Majority washed off immediately, but there were some stubborn pieces that refused to let go of his soft pale skin. I stood there deliberating whether I should go inside and get some rubber gloves, not really wanting to touch it with my bare hands. But as I looked into his dejected face, it became evident what I needed to do. I bent down and started rubbing his feet and gently scraping the remainder with my fingernails. After we finished, I washed my hands and slowly put the hose back, watching him prance away with his feet sparkly clean to join the rest of the group in carefree play.

I lingered behind, soaking in the metaphor we’d unwittingly played out. Life indeed is messy. All of us, sooner or later, find ourselves in all kinds of doo. I don’t mind helping you out, but my willingness goes only as far as your mess doesn’t infringe on me. What I want is a sanitized, rubber-gloved version of Christianity. A Christianity where I can keep you at arms length, never getting so close to your ‘stuff’ to contaminate my fingertips. But, in that aloofness, I miss out on the magical transformation that takes place on the side of the house, where in the communion of filth and cleansing, by the time our feet and our hands are rubbed clean, our faces, just like the little boy’s are also lifted up and we are free again to join in the play with the rest of His children.

He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. 2 Corinthians 5:21