Their words ripped holes in my heart. Not clean, surgical incisions, but ragged wounds. Deep gouges caused by blunt force trauma.
They stood before me, my accusers. The principal a parent and a couple of members of the board. “Your behaviour in the classroom is inappropriate.”
I thought of my second graders. Of our cosy classroom, filled with life, with bursts of colour and insect displays. With lopsided, art work and stacks of picture books. I thought of the relationship I’d built with each child. The love and joy we’d shared. What was inappropriate about that? A kernel of anger ignited deep within.
“Be careful.” The Lord cautioned me, a still, quiet voice amid welling emotions.
“We’ve had reports of you touching the children.”
Well of course I touched them. The children thrived on touch, on the affirmation that it brought. A pat on the shoulder. A comforting hug after some bad news. The simple act of pushing a child on a swing. These youngsters needed, even demanded my touch. I wanted to shout at my accusers. Ask them why they were doing this.
“Be still and know that I am God.”
In spite of the quiet whispers, my emotions continued to rise. A confused mix of anger, disbelief and hurt. Confidence leaked in dribbles from my punctured heart.
“You know that prayer is no longer allowed in schools and yet you persist in bringing God into the classroom.”
At least they were right about one thing. I wove God into my lessons. A mention here, an explanation there. An appreciation of a butterfly wing, powdered with sparkly orange and dusty lemon. A study on frogs with bulgy eyes and warts sprinkled over cool skin. I prayed with the children too, but only if they asked me. Their requests were simple:
“Please pray that Daddy lets us get a puppy.”
“I need my wiggly tooth to fall out tonight.”
“Can God help me to like spinach?”
“In quietness and trust is your strength”. Another scripture filtered through my mind; a calming oil spread across indignation that bubbled within.
“We have no choice but to suspend you, pending an enquiry.”
Suspend me? Take me out of my classroom, away from the work I’m called to do? They stared at me, vindictive eyes challenging me, daring me to respond. I wanted to with all my heart. I wanted to shout and rant and rave. I wanted to argue and defend myself. To cry and beg them not to do this.
The still, small voice was soft as a baby’s breath. “I stood before Pilate. I was falsely accused. I know how you feel.”
“The suspension is immediate. You have half an hour to pack your things and leave the premises.”
I stared at my accusers, contempt and scorn dripping from their eyes. My heart was bleeding with betrayal and deep pain at their actions. Could Jesus really understand my feelings? I thought then of how Judas betrayed Him. Of how He remained silent, calm as they whipped Him and spat on Him. As they threw lots for His clothing and mocked Him. Of His composure as they hammered spikes through innocent hands and feet.
“In quietness and trust is your strength.” He whispered again.
I felt God’s peace flowing across the fire in my heart. Liquid calm that blanketed raw flesh and began to wash and heal. A gentle, fragrant balm that cooled aching bruises and lacerations.
There would be time for words later, time to refute the accusations but that time was in the future. My words had to flow from a heart that was still before God. From a heart that was prepared and calm. If I tried to speak now, my words would be an eruption of volcanic anger, spewing, accusing, burning a trail of destruction.
I lifted my chin and looked each one in the eye before speaking. “The only thing I’m guilty of is loving these children like God loves them” I turned to go “It’s in your hands.” I whispered to God. “You show me what to do from here.”
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