A friend of mine recently posted a note on her Facebook account that was inspirational to me, not only because I was once a previous teacher, but also because of where I am in life now and what God is calling me to do today as a Christian, wife, and mother. So, since I know many of you, my readers, are currently living in my shoes, if you will, I thought I would pass it along. So, enjoy Amber’s post, Day 29. (I bolded the parts that spoke to me.)
I was only eight days removed from graduation when I stood in front of my class for the first time. I remember trying all kinds of techniques to get my kids interested in learning. Many of my tactics involved some form of educational bribery. I would stop by the store early most mornings and load up on candy and supplies for the class. All of this came out of my own pocket mind you, but it was worth it to have an engaged classroom.
I taught 6th, 7th, and 8th grade English at St. Rita, and the 6th graders were without a doubt in a league of their own. Too old to be kids and too young to be teens they were quite literally in the middle of middle school. I grew to love my little 6th graders, and so I invented a type of educational bribery just for them.
The program was a way to brag on them to my older students and reward them for their hard work. I wrote the following sentence on the top of my board: “My 6th graders have done their homework for ___ days in a row!!!” Now, every day we would fill in the appropriate day. I made a big deal of it. For every day that all of my students did their homework we would write the number on the board. If we made it to 15 days in a row they got a treat. 20 days and they got another one. The Big Kahuna though was 30 days; if we made it to 30 days then they would get a party. Whoo hoo. Like all good bribes though, there was a catch. If anyone in the class forgot their homework, on any day, the entire class went right back down to zero days and we had to start all over again. It didn’t even matter if we were on day 29, if one person forgot, we all paid the price. Now, I wasn’t a complete Nazi. Each student had one “pass” they could use for forgotten homework and we wouldn’t go down to zero days. In addition each week had a built in free day. You see I didn’t assign homework on Fridays but I counted each weekend as a day they “did” their homework.
Things were going really well with my 6th graders. Admittingly, several kids needed to use a “pass” but all of them did their work on a consistent basis. I knew who the kids were to watch, and I watched them, but they did their work and we kept racking up the days. We hit 15, and then the deal was on. Once they got their first treat (which were Krispy Kreme doughnuts) they were baited. That party was within reach. Then came day 18. It was weekly spelling word time and I told them to get out their work and I would come and check it. I made it all the way around the room to Molly. Now Molly was not one of the kids I had to watch. She was a cute girl who always wore her long hair in two low pigtails. She had glasses, but they complemented her, and she was one of the first ones to raise her hand when I asked a question. She was a good kid. When I got to her I knew what was wrong. She looked up at me, those pigtails framing her tear streaked cheeks and said “I don’t have it…I can’t find it.”
My heart sank. “Wait,” I offered, “you still have your pass!” I looked at my grade book while she simultaneously shook her head. “No, I used it on the very first day because I was absent and didn’t want to make it up.” The grade book confirmed it. I gave her a sympathetic smile, and she cried some more. That walk over to the chalk board was the longest of my teaching career. My 6th graders waited with baited breath as I raised my marker and erased day 18, only to replace it with a zero.
I think about that day often. It wasn’t until then that I understood that whole “this hurts me more than it hurts you” adage. I truly ached for that class, and especially poor little Molly. You see, it didn’t matter what that party was going to cost me, I knew how much they wanted it, and that made me want to give it to them that much more. I knew they were working for it, and that made giving it that much sweeter. It was only recently, as I thought of this story yet again, that I thought of it as a perspective on my life as a Christian. As God’s adopted sons and daughters through the blood of Christ, we aren’t much different than that room full of 6th graders. I wanted to bless my class, and God wants to bless us. Now God has given us the ultimate blessing through Christ’s death on the cross, it’s like our pass, but being a Christian is so much more than simply knowing you’re going to Heaven. We are meant to live in that promise each day. He wants to reward our faithfulness, and He wants us to work hard to bring to completion the good works He has begun in us. Why does it surprise so many of us then when we get something we’ve wanted, worked, and prayed for? Why does it surprise us when we seek Him and, are rewarded for it? Isn’t it in the nature of a loving God to bless those who love Him? Even more so, don’t we know that He aches when we are living in obedience, and then stumble either out of habit, stupidity, or complete disregard for His will? True, He could go on and reward us anyway, bless us in spite of ourselves, but then what good is the blessing? What further blessings would we miss by not facing the consequences of our own disobedience?
I could have given Molly a pass that day, especially since I knew she was trying, and especially since she was a good kid, but that wasn’t the deal we had made. It was all or nothing. There was no in-between. The same is true for our walk with Christ. We are in an all or nothing deal here. When we give it our all, we receive His all, and His blessing far outweighs our sacrifice. Today I encourage you to be obedient to what you are being called to. No matter how difficult, your faithfulness will produce blessing. After all, wouldn’t you hate to go all the way back down to zero when you may be on day 29?