I cannot understand the depths of some kids' sense of disrespect.
After six weeks at Hawthorne High School, I could not understand what had been holding me back for so long.
Why did I have such a difficult time when it came to dealing with unruly elements, with disrespectful people.
I was frustrated on the inside as well as on the outside, and for whatever reason, at the time I just did not know.
Now I have figured it all out.
The greatest enemy of mankind is not guns, ammo, death, destruction, hurricanes, natural disaster.
The greatest source of pain and heart-ache: "reproach".
Shame keeps people " in place", and breeds the fear which then prevents people from stepping out of the "victim" role.
I could not believe that R. G. would attempt to humiliate me once again, after I had covered his US history class for six weeks at the beginning of the year.
The last time that I saw the kid, he just walked past me and would not look at me.
Before that, I finally refused to put up with disrespect, and thus I let loose some "righteous wrath".
When I first saw him and other students from the previous year, I could not remember their names.
When they told me who they were, I then recalled a little more about them, At that point, I had no further reason to be upset, to hold a grude. I knew who I was, then, and I knew that I did not have to earn my respect in the world.
Then he tried to resurrect the reproach:
"Poor Mr. S, we got you fired!"
The students last year in the US History class that I covered, they had gotten away with murder. In part because I was more concerned about keeping the job, in part because the administration had all but given up on holding students accountable.
I had since then, after looking back to look ahead and enjoy the moment, that I no longer had to take the blame nor give it for all that had happened. I really believe that all things do work for good, if I only believe.
Still, this student, R. G., refused to let it go.
"And we would make you so mad. We would start chanting your name!"
I recall these events with a smile -- the grace superabounds in the reproach of men.
This kid actually thought it was funny and fruitful to harass a teacher. Then all of a sudden, I sbapped:
"How dare you talk to me like that!"
R .G. just swerved his to one side, almost as if I had slapped him, but the truth is stronger than the force of a punch. "I did not deserve to be treated like that!"
He tried to get a word in edge-wise, but I refused to let him say one more word. As he retreated back to his seat, I kept thundering the truth that had set me free:
"You wasted your time! I was a good teacher! It was your fault!"
The student started huddling in his chair, from beaming arrogance to seeming cowardice, trying to smile a little just to take away the sting of the reproach redounding to him.
I trembled a little bit, as I had not "let loose" like that in a long time. I could not believe that I had let this kid have it, although in the months leading up to the day in the art class at Hawthorne High, I had learned to rest in something within myself, I stopped trying to get the world outside of my to line up and play that I wanted to. I did not think about the consequences of speaking out, but let the peace within me work its way out.
I had put many students to silence before, but this kid was trembling all over, like a leaf suddenly caught up in a thunderstorm, and I loved every minute of it.
These are the moments that I am blessed to replay in my mind, the small victories which reveal bigger truths in my life. For many years, I would look back on those moments when I stood up for myself, so to speak, trying to tease out what source within me gave me the strength to speak up.
Now I realize that it was never "me" to begin with. When I stopped thinking about, focusing on myself, I found that I had no problem speaking out against injustice, shame, and reproach.
"But that's the past!" R.G. whined, opined.
"Then who are you to bring it up? I am no longer that person!" I boldly declared. I then wrote the names of the two children born to Joseph in the Bible, Manasseh and Ephraim, how God had made me forget all my toil and hurt, and instead He was making my doubly fruitful in the land of my affliction. That day, at Hawthorne High School, the land of affliction for six weeks prior, because a fruitful field in which I released the respect which I had received finally and without reserve.
"That's really good," he sheepishly replied. The rest of the class sat silently by and took in the scene of self-respect triumphing over reproach.
"We got you fired!" has now become the fired-up refrain which makes all grace abound to me. I need not run and hide from the shame of others, anymore.
"That felt good, didn't it?" R.G. admitted. "You bet!" I answered.
From fired to on fire, from fired to fiery, from fired to faithful, this is the glory which awaits every man who walks by faith!