Meanness in the World

When I was in 1st grade a 3rd grade boy ran around the corner of the school building and punched me in the stomach as hard as he could. That was my introduction to meanness in the world. I had no idea who the boy was, had never seen him before and couldn’t have picked him out of a line-up if there had been one. I knew he was in 3rd grade because the girl I was with told me so. At that age I tended to believe what people told me. I walked, doubled over, to the school building and spent the rest of recess inside. I never told my parents and probably not my teacher. I can’t remember.

When I was in 3rd grade a fellow classmate grabbed me by my wrists. He spun me around as fast as he could and let me go. I went flying across the playground, my pride wounded more than my body. He also called me “fatty” on a regular basis. I’m not sure why. I was the smallest and skinniest kid in my class.

In 6th grade I put a change of clothes in my gym locker. It was a pair of bright green jeans and an orange sweatshirt I had gotten for my birthday. At the end of class they were gone. Someone had stolen them. A few days later a tough girl in my class was wearing them. When I mentioned to her that she was wearing my clothes she denied it and looked like she was going to punch me. I let it go. I avoided her as much as I could.

In 9th grade we spent a few weeks going to the bowling alley for gym class. There was a girl who regularly asked me for bowling money. She promised to pay me back. She never did. She was intimidating and popular. I kept my mouth shut and tried not to sit near her.

In 11th grade I had a history teacher who made fun of me in class. He knew I was a Christian and took it upon himself to mock me for that every chance he got. I quit studying and ended up with a D in his class for the year. He made sure to tell me he didn’t think I was college material. I should have told someone, instead I kept my head down and mouth shut. I proved him wrong by going to college two years later and getting As and Bs.

In 12th grade I had a gym teacher who gave me an “Unsatisfactory” grade on my report card. I was horrified. When one of my friends found me crying she insisted on going with me to see the teacher. She marched boldly into her office and demanded to know why I had been given a failing grade.  Her answer? “Karen laughs too much in class.” I didn’t know how to respond. I did laugh in class because I enjoyed it. I wasn’t being disrespectful. I thought I was being cheerful. My friend argued with her for a few minutes, but the teacher’s mind was made up. We both left feeling the world was unjust.

In college I had a speech teacher who gave me an A on every speech I gave in his class. Our last speech was to be a persuasive speech. He spent two class periods emphasizing it needed to be something we were passionate about. After thinking long and hard I settled on persuading my classmates of the evidence that Jesus rose from the dead. I spent hours preparing. Writing and rewriting. I was sticking to the historical facts. My turn came to speak. When I finished my teacher stood up quickly and laid into me in front of the whole class.

“I had no business speaking on such a controversial subject”, he said. “It was not appropriate.”

I had evidently hit a nerve. Seems he only allowed persuasive speech that agreed with his point of view. He gave me a C. I kept my head down and my mouth shut.

It would be unfair of me to think that all third grade boys are bullies. It would be unfortunate of me to believe that every junior high girl is a thief. It would be unreasonable of me to assume anyone who teaches history, gym or speech is out to get me.

The truth is there are bullies in the world and sometimes that bully is me. Each of us must do better. If we love God we will love those made in His image.

Even those who punch us in the stomach.

For Further Study:

II Chronicles 7:14 and if My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray,, and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.

Psalm 86:5  For Thou, Lord, art good, and ready to forgive. And abundant in lovingkindness to all who call upon Thee.

I John 4:19-21 We love, because He first loved us. If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar, for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also.

Matthew 6:14-15; Matthew 18:21-35; Galatians 3:28

 

 

The Greatest of These is Love

Our family was under stress. My husband had just retired. We were getting our house ready to sell by cleaning, fixing, packing and throwing away. We were also looking for a new place to live in another town. It wasn’t going well. Most of the places we asked to see were selling before we could make an appointment. Our current house had a string of unexpected things to fix. It had all taken its toll.

Our mood changed from expectant to surly. We weren’t exactly fighting, but our tone must have been off because our granddaughter, Arianna, quietly handed each of us a handmade construction paper heart with the word love written in crayon.

She instructed us to put them in our pocket so we would remember to love each other.

We quietly said, “Oh, honey, we still love each other.”

She wasn’t convinced and her silence brought conviction. We had forgotten that circumstances and things are not what make a happy life. Our love for each other was much more important. Love must be lived out in words and actions and ours had not lined up with what we claimed.

I’m not used to being put in my place by a seven year old, but God will use whatever is available to get through to hard hearts, and Arianna was available.

We accepted the hearts and obediently put them in our pockets.

Our house eventually sold, we found a new one, and survived the move.

I would be lying if I said our surly days were over, but Arianna had helped us to be a little softer and kinder to each other. And every time I think of the paper heart for my pocket I breathe a prayer of thanks to a good God who blessed us with a granddaughter who knows exactly how to speak the truth in love.

The God Who Forgives

Here it is the start of another year. There is hope for a fresh start, a new beginning. To do better at life than I did last year. But there are old doubts. Can I really begin again?  Can God possibly love and forgive me after what I’ve done?

The simple truth is…”If God doesn’t speak to me in my darkest sin, He doesn’t speak to me at all.” Either he is a God who loves even the most vile sinner and longs for them to turn to him or he doesn’t care for any sinner and will condemn us all to hell.

His love is way beyond anything we can imagine and so we imagine his love is like ours. “Fragile, weak and conditional.”

We love those who are kind to us. God loves those who hate him.

We love those who are worthy of our love. None of us are worthy of God’s love.

We love those who we have the energy to love. God loves with a passion that takes our breath away. It is an unending wellspring of love for the people he has created for one purpose only…to love and serve Him.

And yet we put limits on the limitless God.  We say, “I have gone too far. He can’t possibly forgive this offense. I have sinned too often. He will not forgive me yet again.”

But we forget that he is the good shepherd who leaves the 99 righteous persons to seek and save the lost one. (Luke 15:4-7)

We forget that he loved people like David who were guilty of sexual immorality, betrayal and murder.

We forget he loved the extremely wicked city of Ninevah enough to send a reluctant prophet to preach them the gospel. Jonah tried to get out of the assignment, but God insisted, and the entire city from least to greatest had the nerve to repent. (Jonah 3:1-10)

Such a heart of forgiveness this God has. So at the beginning of this year I bring my past failures to him. I seek His power in changing who I am. I determine to set my eyes on my only hope. The grace and forgiveness of a God who loves me in spite of who I am.