Would I have to convince my husband to help me teach Fifty-six Club at church? I was ready with words like: it’ll be a breeze; no problem; simple; fun. If I could play the guitar, I’d strum the chords to “Victory in Jesus,” but God already had it covered.
“Sure,” Gene answered. “If I can teach a full class of handicapped adults every day, how hard can teaching a Bible class for fifth and sixth graders be?” See, God must’ve been working on his heart—that was too easy. I was sure he was going to say his usual answer: “I teach too much; Sundays are my resting day.”
So we marked our calendar, studied the lesson, and prepared to share what we were thankful for; it was the week before Thanksgiving. We were ready.
We arrived early, but had to wait outside the classroom while the fifth and sixth graders finished Sunday School class before the service started. Would these kids be able to sit for another two hours for another Bible lesson?
The door finally opened at eleven AM on the dot, leaving no time to prepare. Before we even stepped in to meet the class, the teacher was ushering them out and instructing us to take them to the front seats in the service until the worship music ended. All I could think of was huh? We haven’t met most of these kids and they’re going to listen to us? All we could do was walk fast to keep up with our fifty-six club as they led the way like a swarm of buzzing bees entering the peaceful service. I could feel the heat rising up my neck and splotching my face with warm red patches as we headed down the aisle.
Ms. Gretchen, A retired teacher and lifelong member of our church, cupped her hands around her mouth and whispered, “Remember…bookends.” Then she winked, reminding me of a scene from a suspenseful movie where a strange character shows up, says something random that doesn’t seem to make sense but ties everything together. I smiled without a clue about what she was talking about. She was getting old; must be losing it a bit.
The first song, a modern version of Amazing Grace, calmed me down…until a few more kids joined our pack in the second row and proceeded to talk, giggle, and poke the kids in the first row. The finger crossing my lips didn’t seem to do much good. This was the first time I ever wished the worship time would end. I couldn’t think about the words sung; only what high sugar cereals these kids must’ve had for breakfast. When the last song ended, we followed our busy bees back down the aisle. Passing Ms. Gretchen, she mouthed the words, “Remember bookends next time,” and smiled.
I smiled politely.
By the time we brought them to class, they were revved up and we were ready for a nap.
The next two Sundays, we filed the class out after two songs, satisfied that we wouldn’t disturb the worship as much. That seemed about the length of time they could concentrate and we could endure the stress of keeping them quiet.
As we marched out, Ms. Gretchen whispered, “You forgot bookends and prayer.” At the end of class, one mom approached me. “You know, I feel terrible when you take my son out in the middle of worship, just as the Spirit is moving. Could you try to keep them in longer or let my son stay? It’s so important they learn to worship.”
A humbling moment. Time to seek God’s help in the way we do this. Then it hit me…bookends! Of course. I’ll be the front of the line; Gene will trail at the end. We’ll pray first and be the support they need. So simple.
The next Sunday, we filed neatly down the aisle. The kids stood and sang. They didn’t talk. I was able to close my eyes and worship God. “O victory in Jesus, my Savior forever. He sought me and bought me with His redeeming blood…”
At the end of worship, I passed Ms. Gretchen and winked. She winked back. “See, bookends and prayer.”
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