Friday, February 19, 2010

Fight or Flight

A couple of weeks ago, a conflict began brewing in my classroom. I could feel it coming on. Skeptical glances, repeated emails, confused accusations, strained emotions, until the pitch reached the ears of my supervisor. A certain amount of disentangling revealed some simple misunderstandings that were eventually set aright. But it dredged up a fascinating array of emotions for me as a teacher...

First, my personal pride tried to come to my rescue. Like a knight in tin armor, it came riding up from the inside of me with such indignation, it took a supreme effort to hold him down. This native protector fought me hard for the right to speak. I've been teaching for years. I know what I'm doing here. Do they think I don't care about my work or something? Finally, after a few vigorous parries, I identified this most unseemly character and relegated Sir Pride to the ridiculous.

But the attacks just became more subtle. I was suddenly overcome with an urge to blow my class away with an amazingly well-planned lesson, or surprise them by returning their compositions early, or improve the class website with a shiny new veneer. I will prove to them what a spectacular teacher I a-

Wait a minute. I peered closer. Yep, it was just Sir Pride again, only injured and masquerading in a new costume. Fortunately, I didn't fall for it too long - he betrayed himself again by his pompous self-talk. Flipping his hauberk off, I found his jester's suit.

But now what? How to face my class (really, one student in particular) when I felt as if I'd been taken down a notch? My answer came from the life of King David, another one dethroned - and by his own son. In 2 Samuel 15, David has been forced to flee his beloved Jerusalem. Humbled into barefooted mourning with his faithful band of followers, he passes by the house of a man named Shimei. As they walk by, Shimei runs out, and begins throwing stones, dust, and curses at David, saying:

"Get out, get out, you man of blood, you worthless man ! The Lord has avenged on you all the blood of the house of Saul...the Lord has given the kingdom into the hand of you son Absalom. See your evil is upon you, for you are a man of blood." (2 Sam. 16: 7-8)

Well. How is a King of Israel to respond to that kind of audacity? His servants and soldiers quickly suggest that they do away with this "dead dog", rising to the occasion to defend his honor. David, rather annoyed with their attitude, flatly refuses such a thing with the following, remarkable statement:

"If he is cursing because the Lord said 'Curse David,' who shall then say, 'Why have you done so?' Leave him alone, and let him curse, for the Lord has told him to. It may be that the Lord will look on the wrong done to me, and that the Lord will repay me with good for his cursing today." (2 Sam. 16:10-11)

What wisdom is this? It is rooted in a deep sense of God's sovereignty. Any position of authority that David had come to him from the Sovereign of all. If He had told this guy to curse him, He knew what He was doing. David and his companions end up walking on the opposite side of the road, braving the flying dust and unkind words.

I hope that I can do that someday. What freedom to pass by the insults that come by, neither shrinking in fear nor swelling in false pride. I want to trust my own King, my own Teacher.