“Shark bait! I smell new blood.”
Brad Kellogg’s snicker bounced off the taupe walls containing a world map. I couldn’t help but stare and second his assessment.
“Hey kids, I’m your new Sunday School teacher, Karlie Jackson. I’ll take attendance.”
Miss Jackson searched for a pencil and the rest of us took stock of what was before us.
“Look at that shirt, she so got that at a thrift store.”
Mindy Reid whispered.
Karlie’s faded Amy Grant concert tee shirt was apparently the closest thing to appropriate Christian fashion she could find. She wore crisp black jeans, but denim nonetheless. I could envision half the elders wagging their fingers in disappointment. Her hair was a bit of a rainbow---faded magenta streaks, blond hair, dark roots.
“I can’t wait to get to know you. I’m excited because I never went to church at your age and I can’t wait to share the Bible with you. We’re going to have fun. Now let’s open up to the book of Esther…”
A percussion of books hit the desks. I peeked at Miss Jackson and realized she was using her table of contents to find the book of Esther. Mindy rolled her eyes.
“Who can tell me what they know about Esther?”
We weren’t a shy class. If anything, we were an obnoxious one. All ten of us were members of the church since our conception. We mostly went to the same school and had the same church schedule. Our parents were leaders. All our hands shot up to show Miss Jackson how much we knew, and make sure she understood how much she didn’t.
“It’s the only book in the Bible where God isn’t directly mentioned.”
Hailey Bennett announced, a satisfied grin across her face. Miss Jackson cleared her throat.
“Shut up girlfriend! I didn’t know that.”
A ripple of nervous laughter shot through the room. We weren’t used to encouragement starting with the words shut up. We talked about basics of the story which I could see the teacher had underlined in her teacher book. She shut her Bible and sighed.
“You know what I get from this story?”
Miss Jackson discovered blank stares. She looked at her holey sneakers and continued.
“Pray before you do anything. Boy I wished I’d known that when I was your age. Would’ve saved me a lot of grief, I can tell you that. I never knew God had a plan for my life, so I tried to make one. Girls, don’t throw yourself away. Be like Esther. Stay true to God no matter how scary it looks around you. And of course, feed your man before you tell him something big. That really is priceless information that will take you a long way.”
Miss Jackson laughed at herself, confident she shared profound Biblical truth. She repeated her street smart style when she talked about the rebuke David received after cheating with Bathsheba. She instructed us on friendships. Good friends have your back and tell you to shape up. After that hour we got an education I never expected, or at the time, truly understood.
Miss Jackson taught for two years, and then married what she called her own personal Boaz named Boris. We kept in touch as I missed her sassy lessons peppered in experience. By the time I was a senior in high school, Karlie’s words rung through my ears at parties and on dates. I refused to, as Karlie said, throw myself away. One day as I visited her and her preschooler twins, I shared how I turned Brad Kellogg’s one on one party in a basement down the night before. Karlie, six months pregnant, beamed.
“Shut up girlfriend. Way to go.”
Karlie was my mentor when my dad asked me to be the new fifth grade Sunday school teacher. On her way to nursery my first morning, she stopped to pray.
“You’ll do fine Chrissy. Just let God give you the words, no matter what they throw at you.”
I nodded, sighed and opened the door to my new class. Without a beat, I heard familiar words with the swivel of heads to my direction.
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