Saturday, January 27, 2007

I Failed the Test

Early Friday morning, January 26, 2007. I had just finished editing the changes to the Biomes test that my students were (hopefully) prepared to take. Biomes are wide areas on the Earth with generally the same characteristics and the same types of organisms found throughout, the desert biome for example. I hop in the car, turn the key, and hear "reow reow reeeooowww reeeurrrr..." Oh no. The battery was dead.

I ran back into the house to call Mr. Merges, my assistant principal. "It's okay, Mr. Houtchens," he reassures me. "Can you get here? We can arrange to get a sub for a half day. Don't worry about it- we have you covered." I went over the details for the lesson plans, thankful that I had taken the time earlier to email the test to both myself and Mrs. Artessa, one of my colleagues at the school who co-teaches one of my classes.

I scramble outside. The dogs are going crazy barking at me. Is this a new game? Watch Daddy run around. Bark, bark, bark. I wonder whether the truck battery has enough juice to jump me off. The tools are inside. Scramble back. Get the tools. Run back outside and manhandle the battery out of the truck. Meanwhile the clock is ticking and I am getting more and more behind the eight ball. Jack Baur where are you?

Now I pause from the action here just a moment (in my column, not at the time) because it is in times of crisis that true character is revealed. Much like Frank Herbert's Bene Gesserit observe reactions to pain, this is true in a spiritual sense as well. When Job was tested by the devil, he lost his job, house, income and all his relatives, yet he continually praised God and did not sin. He blessed God even when his wife was telling him to curse God and die.

Did I thank God for this opportunity to show trust and faith in Him? Did I even take time out to pray silently for just a few moments? Nope. Instead I turned into Yosemite Sam. RASSER FRATTING FLING BITTEN TOOTIN SHOOTIN DORF FLIPPIN .... I used some bad words... I even took the Lord's name in vain, and now I can just imagine God in heaven looking down on me and thinking, "Glenn my child, don't you realize that I have you in my hands, that I am in control of this situation? Where is your faith?"

The battery from the truck did not work- it was completely dead. So I got out the old Sears battery charger which had not worked last time I used it. It had been sitting in the bed of my pickup truck in the rain and weather for the last year, now covered by leaves. I plugged it in and ran inside to plug the extension cord into the wall in the garage. Bark! Bark! Bark! Eight furry legs following after me and padded in front of me, running about in circles, excited about what was happening. How fun it was- Daddy's going bananas!!!!

I run back outside and low and behold, after gathering rust and grime in it's innards for over a year, the thing is working, and the battery is charging. Fifteen minutes later I am on my way to work. In hindsight I feel a bit like Peter, (and I realize this is partly just speculation on my part) who without thinking just reacted to the situation and denied Jesus as he was taken prisoner to be crucified.

Here is where the lesson can be found: When my students fail in one aspect or another, whether in failing to control themselves (they ARE 7th graders after all!) in their behavior, failing to make a good choice when tempted to cause trouble, failure to complete assignments or study for tests, failure in whatever difficulty they face (and we can all admit that just being in middle school is a difficult time), I can show mercy and compassion and forgiveness, even in the midst of handing out consequences, and I can encourage these young people to do good, and remind them that they themselves are special, unique, worthwhile and acceptable. In doing so, I show God's love.

Additionally, when my next crisis arises, perhaps I can stop for a moment and remember to thank God for all He has given me, and to look up with trust and faith.

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