Wednesday, October 20, 2010

What I learned in Sunday School

My husband and I serve as substitute Sunday School teachers for the youth at our church.  Prior to Sunday, my experience was limited to subbing for teachers' assistants.  I have happily accepted the role of backer-upper and encourager-of-dialogue and other, mostly easy things.  I dig teenagers.

Sunday, however, I was the Boss.  The Teach.  The Clueless One in Charge.  I have some experience with substitute teaching in public schools, so I'm familiar with the dynamic.  I was not afraid.  A wee bit sweaty, perhaps, but not afraid.  I arrived early and set up my props (an apple, a pocket knife, a squirt bottle of water) and chatted with the regular teacher's assistant, who assured me that this would be a small class, no more than four or five kids.

And then the kids came.  All fifteen of them.  They were predominantly female and ranged from excessively chatty to crossed-armed stony silent.  I began the lesson, which was from John 12:

I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. 
The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.  
Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me. 

Here is what I learned:
After we made a big whiteboard list of things they enjoy doing, ways they spend their time, the students were supposed to draw a line through the things they would give up if God asked them to.  There was a ton of discussion--girls willing to give up video games (which they didn't play) and boys willing to give up candy (which they didn't eat), but no one, not one child was willing to give up FRIENDS or MUSIC or FOOD.  One person was willing to give up Facebook, but then changed her mind.

We talked through the meaning of hating your life, because I remember being young and confused on this topic.  Did God want me to hate the life He gave me?  I thought I was supposed to appreciate it, live it fully, accept it as it was.  I guess I was a slow kid.  These kids totally got it.  They knew that hating their lives was a comparative description: love versus hate.  Jesus versus not physical life, as in breathing breaths in and out, but Jesus versus the things of this world, the things on our list.  They intuitively understood that hating their lives means loving Jesus so much that they are willing to give up every comfort for Him.

Even though, according to the list, they are not willing to do that.

Instead of disturbing, I found this strangely comforting.  I loved their honesty.  I'm pretty sure I didn't have that, or know myself so well, at their ages.  I'm pretty sure I would have spit out whatever answer I thought proper and then carried on with loving my life.

The thing is this:  God was not finished with me when I was a dim, selfish, life-loving teenager.  He is not finished with me now (I'll withhold appropriate adjectives).  God is not through with the students I taught on Sunday, not by a long shot.  We're all running this race, getting closer to Jesus with every step.  My prayer is simply that they continue the journey.  May God keeps us each on His path.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

My God is Holy

I saw Glee the other night.  We don't subscribe to cable, but I tracked it down on Hulu.  I knew I had no business watching it.  So sure was the feeling that it is not in keeping with who I desire to be that I hid down in the basement and watched it on the laptop.  I didn't want the kids to know!

What I saw, and did not turn off, did not turn away from, but watched in much the same way a person watches a train wreck--despair and tragedy, mangled limbs and carnage--from beginning to end, was the single most blatant anti-Christian propaganda I have ever witnessed.  It spewed hate towards my God and my beliefs, and therefore towards me.  It was offensive in the way it reduced Jesus to an image on a grilled cheese sandwich, equating Him to a genie in a bottle, Someone who might just grant a sincere request by a teenage boy to touch his girlfriend's breasts.

Make no mistake, I was offended; aghast, even, at what has become acceptable in our society.  Christians truly are the only people group in America that can be mocked openly and without consequence.  It dawned on me that we are hated.  Surely, there are those who call themselves followers of Christ who spew hate.  Biblical Christianity is not hateful.  I want to say that.  I want it to be heard, but that's not the thing that has stayed with me over the last several days.  The thing that touched me, that keeps running through my mind is this:

The God of the Bible, my God, is holy.  He will not be mocked.  My heart grieves for these people, for I believe that one day they will stand in front of the One they have mocked and be called to explain themselves.

"Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap." 
 Galatians 6:7

Friday, October 1, 2010

People, Vol. 3

In early September I met a man at Chik-fil-A.

I had taken three boys school-clothes shopping and we stopped at the restaurant to refuel and assess our progress.  The place was packed.  I remember that I had to direct one particular child two or even three times to take the tray from the table to the garbage, knowing full well that his sudden desire to wash his hands (of all things) was nothing more than a lame attempt at getting out of a little work.  My re-direction was loud, seeing as how he headed to the bathroom and then continued heading toward the bathroom until he realized that a) I was serious, and b) trouble was about to rain down on his little world.

As I exhaled slowly and walked through the restaurant, probably rolling my eyes, a lone diner stopped me with an outstretched hand and asked politely if I was a single mom.  When I tipped my head sideways, he quickly explained that as he had admired my chile\d-rearing style it struck him that I was either a single mom or a military wife.

I am who I am, so I pulled up a chair.  We chatted for just a few minutes (although if you're under the age of 18, you would have said it was hours), and I learned that he had recently placed his wife of 40-some-odd years in a nursing home because her Alzheimer's had advanced to the point where he could no longer care for her at home.  It took all of ten seconds to realize that this man was guilt-wracked, and lonely.

I did what any of my mother's daughters would do and invited him to our Labor Day barbecue, where he ate home-cooked food, chatted with my lovely neighbors, and took home enough leftovers to get him through several solitary meals, each of which he reported joyfully via email.

School started the day after that barbecue and life got nutty.  Just today we finally managed to meet for lunch, back at Chik-fil-A.  He treated, and I noticed that he didn't have to give the employee his order. I also noticed that the refill guy didn't ask what he'd been drinking..

I only had an hour, but during that time I employed the Talk Less, Listen More rule (no small feat for me)It was genius--we all need to be heard--and I'm thrilled to say that I am the proud recipient of his love story.  I'm also a little bit in awe (okay, so I'm a lot in awe) of how God will use me when I'm willing to be used.