I swear I had only stepped out into the hallway for a minute before the morning bell rang. In truth, I was actually in the doorway but my back was to the classroom as my colleague and I briefly discussed the rescheduling of a cancelled field trip. As soon as I turned to face my class the town criers were up and out of their seats ready to tattle.
“Ben and Jay were fighting!”
Two very familiar culprits were then called into the hallway for an up-close and personal discussion with me. Out poured the stories, each one collaborating the other while putting the most favorable light on whomever was doing the telling.
“I was in the bathroom and he started knocking on the door saying, ‘911, this is an emergency. Come out with your hands up!’ and then I opened the door and he pushed me down. Then afterwards when he went into the bathroom I did the same thing to him.”
“No you knocked me down and started trying to do karate on me.”
All I could think was, “I was three feet away! How could that all have happened without me hearing it?”
In the end, nobody had suffered anything more than hurt feelings and a need to be right.
But isn’t that just like life is sometimes? We get distracted by things we deem more important and miss the more urgent issue that is right behind us? Like the overwhelming need to be right in a situation that really calls out for an act of mercy and compromise. Or giving into retaliation instead of offering up forgiveness. Am I not so unlike the eight year old boys who struggle to be heard as they tell their side of the story?
When did it become more important to be right than to be happy? Truly- it is the moment I decide that I am more important than somebody else. It is in the moment when I forget that I am called to be a child of God with a loving, humble and forgiving spirit. It is in the moment when I cease to listen with my heart.
I am thankful that I am surrounded by chances to grow each day. Even in the ordinary classroom squabbles or the sometimes annoying inconveniences there can be a hidden opportunity. For it is within those less then desirable circumstances that change can be found. And it is there that I can choose to expand into a little better version of myself. A version that looks a little less like me and a little more like Jesus.
Shortly after attending a teachers meeting this week I threw myself a big ‘ole pity party. I began inviting my colleagues to join me in my party lament of “too-much-to-do-and-not-enough-time-to-do-it-and-furthermore-nobody-appreciates-what-I-do-anyway.” Throwing out complaints like confetti I began cataloging all the things that make my job seem impossible – increasingly higher expectations with larger class sizes, diminished prep time, increased duty time, and no classroom aides. I come to school early and stay late, but there is never enough time to do everything that is required of me. My discouragement-o-meter was pointing to HIGH by the time I got home that night.
My husband lent a sympathetic ear as I continued to complain that talk was cheap. “People can say they appreciate what you do, but unless they really do something to show you it means very little.” Even as I fell into bed that night trying to sleep the party racket went on. Finally, in the war between spirit and flesh I gave in and began praying. “Lord, you know I don’t want to feel like this. I want to be a woman after Your own heart and be thankful in all circumstances. But sometimes it is so hard when it seems like nobody cares that you are doing your best. Nobody shows you that it matters what you do. “
And then before I could get another word out, the Holy Spirit began reminding me of the ones who did appreciate me. Little Allie who’d met me at the door that morning with a beautifully drawn picture of flowers and butterflies with the words “You are the Best Teacher” written in crayon across the top. An orange pipe cleaner heart placed in my hand by Katelyn. “I made this for you,” she’d said with a smile. And two bear-sized hugs from the two Justins in my room before they had left for the day. The remembrance of these heart-felt expressions brought me to tears. How could I have been so blind to the appreciation that was right before me? The appreciation that meant the most to me! “Forgive me, Lord! You showed Your love for me through a child’s pure devotion and I almost missed it.”
The pity party was over and in its place I threw a big “I love you, Jesus” celebration. I am so thankful I serve a God who loves me so much that He comes to my lousy self-centered parties and changes the atmosphere just by being there. For when Love enters, there is no room for anything else.
Philippians 1:3 I thank my God every time I remember you.