I think I was a pretty good classroom teacher overall, but when I was younger and just getting started, I made a lot of mistakes.
Like the time I made an eighth grade boy stand up in front of the room and tell us everything he knew about Jesus.
It was one of those rare days when we were taking a written test over material from the textbook in my introductory speech class at the middle school. The classroom was so quiet you could’ve heard a pin drop. Then all of a sudden, completely out of the blue, the fire alarm accidentally went off in the hall just outside our classroom door.
Lots of students were startled and literally jumped in their seats. I did, too.
And one boy sitting at the back of the class was so startled he blurted out, “Jesus Christ!”
Some of the other kids laughed.
It flew all over me.
Because, you see, I grew up being taught that you didn’t use God’s name as though it meant nothing. I took that very seriously.
I called the boy’s name and told him that if he wanted to talk about Jesus that badly, to come to the front of the room and share what he knew about him. He was embarrassed and didn’t want to, but I made him.
He walked to the front of the room and I continued to goad him into telling what he knew about Jesus.
Nearly in tears at this point, he told us quite a bit he knew about Jesus. And when he finished I asked him how he could know Jesus that well and then use his name like that.
I was proud of myself for standing up for my convictions, for defending what I believed God wanted, for teaching those kids in my care to do the same. I told and retold the story of what happened in class and many said, “good for you.”
But I know now that was one of my worst, if not the worst moment of my teaching career. Because I stood for my convictions with such venom, such offense at what he had done, that I reacted out of anger and not love. Even though I truly, sincerely believed that I was doing the right thing by saying something to the boy – and to the rest of the class – I was so wrong in the way I went about it.
Why couldn’t I have simply smiled at the boy and said, “that’s who I call on, too, when I’m scared.”
Maybe that response would’ve opened the door for lots more conversations – meaningful conversations – about Jesus and the way he calls us to live our lives.
Instead, my words slammed the door shut.
To any voice I might have had with that boy, and with the rest of the kids who were listening intently to my words, my tone, my face.
Lord, forgive me for all the times that I speak too quickly. For all the times that I may have the best of intentions, when I may be right in what I’m saying, but so wrong in the way I say it.
Help me this week – especially this week –
to remember how powerful your silence was in a courtroom.
That it didn’t mean compliance, but that your refusal to defend your position was part of a greater purpose to be achieved.
I’m so very thankful for the greater purpose your willingness to be silent accomplished.