Her lip trembled but she refused to be a crybaby.
Her hands were shaking. In fact, most of her was shaking. "Stop that!" she demanded through clenched teeth. But her hands wouldn't listen, and neither would her legs, which at the moment felt like two strands of spaghetti.
It irked her that she was so nervous! So what if this was her first day; lots of people had first days. Come on - it was sixth grade, for goodness sake! She tried to convince herself there was nothing to be worried about but the pep talk wasn't working. All she wanted to do was run back home to her bed, dive under the covers, and not emerge until the school year was over.
But that was not an option.
Her mother's words came back to her, uninvited, but they were somewhat comforting, nonetheless. "When in doubt, pray."
So she prayed - quick, inaudible prayers under her breath. And then she prayed some more, hoping like crazy that God was listening. She was scared. She felt like a big baby. Suddenly the tears threatened again. But no - she would not cry. She would march into class with her head held high, ready for battle. She bit back her tears and stood up straight.
What was that verse in Proverbs her mom quoted the other day from The Message Bible? She was always quoting Proverbs from The Message. She said The Message was easier to understand, told it just how it is. She couldn't argue with that. Oh yeah, she remembered now: Proverbs 21:31: "Do your best, prepare for the worst - then trust God to bring victory" Well, she was certainly prepared for the worst. Would God bring the victory or would she go down, defeated?
She peered into the classroom through the glass window. Everyone was talking, laughing, shooting paper wads, obviously comfortable with each other. How would they respond to her, to someone new? She looked from face to face, trying to determine which ones were part of the popular cliques, who were the noisy troublemakers and who were the quiet ones…the quiet ones were the ones she would be drawn to. The loud, obnoxious ones intimidated her somehow and made her feel small.
Again, she reminded herself…this is sixth grade! You can do it!
Her heart was thumping out of her chest and she took a few deep breaths to calm herself. "I can do this," she said aloud. "God will bring the victory."
She put her hand on the doorknob and began to turn it. She watched through the glass as heads started turning as well. Voices grew quiet, chairs stopped scraping, paper wads stayed where they landed.
She stepped into the classroom and looked around, a lump forming in her throat. Should she say something? It looked like everyone was waiting for her to say something. Maybe she should introduce herself.
"H - Hi. My name is Miss Lewis. And I - I'm your substitute teacher."
And a paper wad hit her square in the forehead. The initiation process had begun.
As she peeled the wet wad from her skin, only one thought permeated her mind, another of her mother's famous quotes from Proverbs: "A prudent person sees trouble coming and ducks; a simpleton walks in blindly and is clobbered."
Yes, she had reason to be afraid. Sixth grade children could be so cruel…