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Lord, get me out of the 8th Grade!

March 6, 2009

I had it all planned. In college I majored in political science with the intent of teaching government to high school seniors. I am passionate about politics. When I was in high school I was mesmerized by the political conventions. I really didn’t care which political party’s convention I was watching. I watched them gavel-to-gavel. At age 18, I was elected as a delegate to the Texas Republican convention. Of course, that was back in the 1970’s when there weren’t very many Republicans in my part of Texas. They were thrilled when an 18-year-old walked into the poorly attended precinct meeting. I felt it was only natural that I should share my love for the American political system with high school seniors. Funny thing happened on the way to that high school classroom, it took a detour through an 8th grade jungle.

My husband was a coach. He coached football, basketball, and baseball. It was a natural fit with my background since my father was also a football coach. The problem was that when we moved to a new school district for his coaching career, I kept being put into an 8th grade classroom teaching American History instead of a high school teaching U.S. Government. I was miserable. I had absolutely no patience with 13 and 14 year olds. I had no idea how to relate to them much less control them. At the time, it seemed that age group either loved you or hated you. There was no in-between. Also, their affection for you could change in an instant. One minute you think there is some real bonding going on then something happens and you get that look of disdain. The eyes start rolling and they say some snide remark to one of their friends that lets you know you NEVER had a chance. You just thought you did.

In my first year of teaching I had a student who sat in the front row named Jimmy. From the first day of school I could tell things were going to be bad between me and him. He had decided that it was his job to make sure that I knew I had chosen the wrong profession. He was what we called back then a “kicker”. He wore a big silver and gold belt buckle, cowboy boots, and he slid back in his chair while looking at me down his nose. I had the hardest time relating to him. At the time I was single and my fiancé and I had just broken off our engagement for about the fourth time. I worked 40 minutes from my house and every day I would cry on the way to work and cry on the way home. Needless to say, I was pretty vulnerable in the area of my love life. One day I had done something to upset Jimmy. He looked at me with a scowl on his face and said, “Miss, are you married?” I fell right into his trap. I replied, “No Jimmy, I’m not married.” He then retorted, “It figures”. Oh, how could a 13 year-old, pimply-faced boy hurt me so? And this was just one student of many that I didn’t know what to do with. 

It probably started that day. I began to plead with God to get me out of the 8th grade. Surely this was a mistake. I was suppose to be teaching seniors about the Bill of Rights and how important it was to have a judiciary that was independent of the legislative process. Something had gone terribly wrong and I needed God to fix it! This went on for three years, three long years. I begged, I pleaded, I cried, I complained, I did everything I knew to try to convince God that something was messed up and He desperately needed to make it right.

There was one thing I was missing. God knew exactly what He was doing. I’m the one that needed to get it right. He needed to work on my attitude and change my heart so that He could use me where He had chosen to place me. In James 1: 2-3 it says,

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers whenever you face trails of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing.”

The word perseverance in Greek actually means, “to remain under”. It refers to the quality of character that does not allow one to surrender to circumstances. When we are facing difficult circumstances instead of pleading with God to remove them, James is teaching that we need to instead pray that God gives us the strength and the grace to go through the difficult situation, not remove it from us. When we do this, God can “perfect” us, which actually means “making us complete” so that we have everything we need to do the things He calls us to.
Funny thing happened on the way out of the 8th grade jungle. After those three years, I finally realized that God was indeed changing my heart. I absolutely fell in love with 8th graders. They are so full of life and have such a fun spirit and sense of humor. God gave me the ability to see that at their age, it may be the last time they will let an adult have an influence in their life. He put me there to love them and care when they had no one to sit by at the lunch table. He wanted me to demonstrate kindness to the one kid in the class that no one liked and by doing so began to change her fellow classmate’s attitude towards her. God is like that. We can change a whole lot of things about our outward appearance, but only He can change our heart. He sometimes has to take us through difficult times and painful situations to make it happen, though. When those times come, hang on and ask him to help you “remain under” the circumstance. Pray that the pain and suffering will not be wasted and that He will use the hardship to make you complete, lacking nothing.

The following short video is of Mark Driscoll teaching a series called “Pray Like Jesus”. In it he illustrates that Jesus understood this principle and practiced it while here on earth.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. Stephane permalink
    March 14, 2009 4:57 PM

    What a wonderful story…..God can and does change the desires of our heart

  2. November 20, 2009 7:32 AM

    I, for one, am extremely glad you stayed in the 8th grade classroom 🙂

    • Jennifer permalink*
      November 20, 2009 11:44 AM

      You were one of the reasons I feel in love with 8th graders!

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