The classroom hummed with activity – well, maybe buzzed – no, it was bouncing as the new freshmen took advantage of a long-term substitute teacher. This was not a day to sing the praises of public schools, for sure. I sat and fumed because the teacher did nothing to stop the chaos. I thought, “I’m not paid to be a teacher – only an aide. I shouldn’t care so much for these kids.”
Nestled between paper throwing and name-calling, the substitute began the lesson and this is what I heard:
“The Big Bang theory explains how our universe was formed. Matter, gas and dust particles were crammed into a small space and built up too much pressure then – BANG!”
My mouth hung open and my mind boiled which caused my hair to frizz. I did my job, helping each student as needed, but if anyone happened to be listening in on these one-on-one conversations, this is what they heard:
“What do your parents think about this?”
“I dunno know.”
“When you go home tonight, ask them.”
I succeeded in having neutral, stay-out-of-trouble conversations until I found myself caught in my own web.
“How do you think the world was made, Mrs. Thompsen?”
Five sets of eyes stared at me as my mind raced for an answer. Of course the school would want a politically correct one, but I, striving to be anything but, made the bold declaration: “I believe God created the world.”
The school didn’t shake off its foundation and students weren’t thrown into a state of confusion, but they now had the “other side” of the great debate. They also knew something that they could use either for or against me: Mrs. Thompsen is a Christian. This wasn’t the first time and it certainly wasn’t the last that I confessed my faith to the students. It is a pretty well-known fact how I believe.
I’m not the only Christian employee at this school. In fact, I imagine that the majority of the faculty attend church or identify themselves as Christian. However, only a few stand out. The students know who these teachers are and seem to gravitate to them.
I’ve passed out Bibles, prayed with teens, and I’ve listened to the most heart-wrenching stories. However, most days being like Jesus to these kids is as simple as laying a comforting hand on the shoulder of a struggling student, giving a high-five for exciting news, or a sharing a hug “just because”. These touches let the teens know that someone cares for them. They might even come to the conclusion that Mrs. Thompson could be right: maybe having a relationship with God wouldn’t be so bad after all.
At the end of the day, I go home thankful that I live and work in an area that allows me to express my beliefs and share Jesus to students. Of course I could, at any time, be called on it, but the worst that can happen is that I’m reprimanded or I lose my job. In some places of the world people are put in prison or even killed for doing exactly what I’m doing. Living life as the Scripture teaches, giving myself to others, and letting them see Jesus through me – that is evangelism.
Ouch! A paper wad hit me in the head. I must have nodded off because I had the best dream. The regular teacher was back and was teaching a less controversial chapter. The students were sitting at the edge of their seats eager to soak up knowledge. I excitedly look around. Rats! The substitute is still here and pandemonium reigns.
I sink down into my seat just as a low flying pen zips past my nose. As I stand to reprimand a student, this is what I hear:
“The Theory of Evolution says that new species evolved in a gradual process…”
Jason interrupts, “You mean we came from apes?”
The class titters and then the room is filled with apish sounds and again, my mouth drops and my head boils making my hair frizz.
At the bell, Jason bolts from his seat and makes a flying leap up to the door frame and hangs by his fingers. My mind stalls and my beliefs melt away for just a second. I can’t bring myself to say to him, “You know, you didn’t evolve from an ape.” Maybe working in a public school is wearing me down because I’m beginning to think this third hour Science class did.
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