Most of you know me as a substitute teacher who loves little kids. I said “little kids” because that is my wheelhouse, my comfort zone, my area of knowing everything that is presently in the mind of first and second graders. It’s where I feel loved and needed. It never fails, whenever we’re out for recess, someone will come up to me and ask me to tie their shoe or zip up their coat. With each act of kindness, I feel like I did something that was productive, or helpful.
Now, why am I telling you something you already know? Well, because last week I left my comfort zone, my wheelhouse, to enter the world of “big kids”. It was a moment of weakness which I soon regretted when I took a class of sixth graders. Yes, sixth graders, the land of drama, of hormones, of boys who act like they are in second grade and girls who wish they were in tenth. But even though that is true most of the time, this was a very nice class. Yes, they had the rowdy boys and the chatty girls, but they also had one student who had her own agenda: to make my life as miserable as possible! Her name was Audrey (not her real name)
MY PATIENCE WORE OUT
I knew I was in trouble when I came into the room and read the notes from the teacher. There was a half sheet explaining the antics of Audrey. The note said to “watch out for Audrey” and then it listed all the things she could possibly do in the classroom. (It failed to mention what she could do on the playground!) It was a difficult day for me, trying to appreciate each of the 22 students and at the same time, keeping an eye out for Audrey, wondering when the next outburst would occur. I don’t think she considered me her “favorite substitute teacher” and she wasn’t my favorite student, but as the day wore on (and my patience wore out) I began to pray.
SHE APPEARED TO ME AS I ONCE APPEARED TO GOD
The Lord reminded me that this girl appeared to me as I once appeared to God. He saw me as a misfit, as a kid who wasn’t living by the rules like everyone else, and as someone who wanted nothing to do with all the things that everyone seemed to desire. In my middle school classroom, I was the one who was looking for attention from the other students and faculty but in an unacceptable way, just as Audrey was doing. By the end of the day, I wasn’t just “watching out for Audrey” but I had compassion for her. I could see past her rebellious actions to a person who was hurting for friendship, for affirmation. As I was finishing my day of substituting, I found myself praying for Audrey, that she would find the same peace and hope that I found in Christ Jesus.
AN ATTITUDE OF NEVER BEING ENOUGH
As I look into the eyes of this child, I realize this is just the beginning. If she doesn’t discover who Jesus is and what he offers, she could have years of this: a hatred of other people, a loss of true love, and an attitude of never being good enough. Jesus said, “Whoever believes in the Son, has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him.” (John 3:36). When you see a child or an adult in this condition, pray for them. Right here, right now. Pray that they could see life, and that God’s wrath would be upon them no longer. The juxtaposition between belief and disobedience is a reminder that belief in God is essential to salvation, but it also brings a life which is refreshing to the heart and mind. So, the next time you see an “Audrey” and she seems to have an agenda that works against you, remember, pray for her and watch God do His work to bring her to believe in life, in the Son of God.
NEVER STOP PRAYING
Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus. Do not stifle the Holy Spirit. (I Thessalonians 5:16-19)