Yeesh, it happened again.
Every single time I teach a children’s church lesson, Papa God brings the exact dadgum lesson home to me. He knows all along that I’m the one who needs to hear it more than the kids. And sometimes His timing is, well, unfortunate.
So there I am, wearing my big floppy flowered “Bible Story Lady” hat, leading a dozen 2 1/2-year-olds in a rousing chorus of The Prayer Song. Our lesson today is, “When someone is mean to you, you don’t have to be mean back.”
Not exactly R.C. Sproal theological magnitude, but hey, everyone in my audience is shorter than my belly button.That’s why I took the job in the first place – no PhD needed. Just KISS and tell. (KISS=Keep It Simple, Sister!)
So there’s this one kid in the class – a big boy for his age – who won’t sit in his chair. He starts out there but within minutes is up and migrating with the wind currents around the room. Don’t know his name. We’ll call him Danny.
Everyone in the room is singing with me (except Danny) when my laid-back, sweet, adorable grandson Blaine arrives late as usual (his mama made us late for church every Sunday morning for 18 years). There is not a single chair left in the room except the one Danny vacated. So the teacher directs Blaine to the empty chair, tells him to sit, and walks away.
Blaine Boy has no sooner seated his adorable little self in the tiny red chair and flashes his 100-watt smile at Mimi (me!) – who is still leading the song up front – than Danny’s migration pattern comes to a sudden halt because he notices someone sitting in his chair. Not that he wants to sit in it, mind you, he just doesn’t want anyone else to.
So with a running start from across the room, Danny charges sweet, unsuspecting, adorable Blaine and wallops him with a flying full body butt, knocking him out of the chair and sending him crashing onto the floor. I’m watching all this happen in slow motion and am unable to do anything about it without stopping the song and disrupting the entire class.
So I helplessly watch the kid I love more than life itself get pummeled by a bully in training pants. My blood pressure shoots through the roof of my head. I can feel my earrings start to melt. It’s all I can do not to fly out of my seat and throttle this rotten little kid. But I remind myself he’s only two. Even though he looks three.
Little Blaine, looking dazed and confused, slowly rises to his feet and stands there all alone (why nobody comes to his aid, I am completely befuddled) eying Danny, obviously not knowing what happened or what to do now. Danny glares back, and climbs into the chair. Squatters rights. You lose, sucker.
Blaine’s adorable little face begins to pucker. Is he about to cry because he’s physically hurt? Or because his feelings are hurt? He’s a gentle-natured kid, so I suspect the latter. My guts are burning with the molten lava of injustice and I can feel the volcano about to blow. I’m gonna clean nasty little Danny’s clock.
And then it hits me. An IM coming right from Papa God.
Helloooooo. When someone is mean to you (or in this case your adorable little grandson), you don’t have to be mean back.
But I WANT to be mean back. Danny deserves it.
Doesn’t matter. When someone is mean to you, you don’t have to be mean back. I wasn’t mean back when they beat me up and shred my skin with whips and thrust a crown of thorns on my head. Aren’t you supposed to be becoming more like me?
Oh. Yeah. I guess.
At this point, the teacher brings a chair in from another room and helps Blaine into it. His little body shudders as he fights the tears that threaten to squeeze out. He is successful. He is brave. He is adorable. He gives Mimi a shaky smile and begins to join in the hand motions of the song that Mimi feels will never, ever end.
Danny is off the chair again and paying no attention to the song. And then there’s that still, small voice again.
So now it’s time to forgive Danny.
Maybe after the lesson, Lord. After I bring him up front and say, “Okay class, here’s a prime example of our lesson today. This is a bully. A mean, bad, rotten little boy. He shoved Blaine out of the chair but Blaine chose not to be mean back. Who does God love more?”
I love Danny as much as you love Blaine.
Yeah, well okay, but he can’t get away with busting up my grandson. Somebody needs to punish this kid. Maybe if I humiliate him in front of the class he’ll learn his lesson.
You know you can’t do that. He made a mistake. Don’t you ever make mistakes?
I think I’m about to right now.
But you won’t. Because you love Me. And I love you. And we both love children who are learning to love me too. Now forgive him.
I can’t. It’s hard to forgive something like this.
Of course it’s hard. That’s why I’m here. I’ll help you. Let’s do this thing. And I’ll give you an A+ on today’s lesson. Let’s say it together: When someone is mean to you, you don’t have to be mean back.