teacher’s pet and childlike worship

Posted: September 26, 2013 in Uncategorized

My third grade teacher was in her next-to-last year of teaching before retirement the year that I was in her little classroom.  She had a big wooden paddle that hung on the coat closet door.  The paddle had a name:  Caesar.  Various infractions, from behavior problems to failure to complete assignments in a timely manner, could earn anyone in the class a spanking from Caesar.  Sometimes the teacher would pull one child aside for that spanking (number of whacks determined by degree of offense committed), but most often there would be a designated time of day when everyone who had earned a spanking was lined up at the front of the room and instructed to bend over.  There, they received their allotted and announced number of whacks.  Some kids cried.  Some did not.

I cannot speak for whether or not the whacks hurt the bottom.  Sometimes I guessed that it did, other times not so much.  But there was one time that a consistently trouble-making boy had a meeting with Caesar and the male janitor in the basement after an especially naughty recess, and that day the trouble-maker came up the steps crying and accusing the janitor of having broken his glasses. 

But as I said, I cannot guess how much my teacher’s spankings hurt, because I never even once got a spanking from Caesar.  I was that kid.  My memory says that I was maybe the only kid in our class of 13 students who never felt Caesar’s wrath, but since the memory is 40 years old, I might be wrong, where it comes to the other kids.  I only know for sure:  I never did.  This was a source of much relief to me (and I was very intentional in doing all I was told, to avoid that consequence.)  But it was also a source of much guilt, then and sometimes even now.  Not getting hit while watching others get hit – it’s an easy source of both immediate and long-term guilt, you know? 

But third grade was like all other grades in this:  I tended to irritate my classmates by my consistent high marks, my ill-concealed love of the classroom, my bookishness, and my highly compliant ways.  I grew to dread those times, not just in third grade but in ALL grades, when teachers would call our scores aloud as they returned our papers to us.  I assume that their motivation was bi-fold:  that I would “reap the reward” of being proud while the class heard about my 100% (or 96% on a bad day), and that those who got lower marks would be shamed into trying to do better. 

Classes are quick to remember who the “high mark” people are, and I grew accustomed to everything from occasional admiration to varying levels of hostility to well-intentioned teasing from people who liked me, and surely had no idea how much the teasing made me feel like an outsider, as guilty as I was when I watched those others getting spanked while I sat safely at my desk.  In high school I developed a bad habit of doing other people’s homework for them as some kind of guilt offering and bid to be accepted in spite of my high marks.

This past Sunday morning one of our pastors taught about worship, and I thought again of all that business of my desperate wish not to be loathed as a “brown-noser” or a “teacher’s pet,” even while my natural proclivities made me live in ways that fit the unkind monikers.

An unashamed display of affection for the Lord, my pastor said, is childlike humility…Worship is the ultimate, “I love You too,” directed at the Lord. 

I know how to do unashamed affection when worshiping PRIVATELY.  There, I easily weep, bow, raise my hands, dance, lie prostrate…all of it.  There, I can just be Karen openly loving Him.  In a group, it’s a much  harder thing for me.  There’s still way too much of school-age Karen alive and well in me, I guess.

I’m not ashamed of HIM.

But I do tend to be filled with dread that someone watching will feel like I’m putting on a show – brown noser – seeing attention.  Or – worse – that someone watching me “doing well” will feel condemned by their not doing the same.  That my joy is somehow causing others pain (heck, I even wrestle with that with most every blog and grat list I write!) 

The solution I have arrived at over the years is:  I close my eyes when I worship. That helps me not to see people seeing me.  And pretty much anytime that I am worshiping with arms lifted or on my knees or whatever, I am also having a steady, constant conversation with myself, speaking against the fear that I am somehow derailing someone else, stating over and over to myself firmly that if someone else has a problem with my worship, the problem is theirs and not mine.  I trust that if I can hear over all that inner noise, God can too.  And I trust that He sees my heart and understands my intentions, and is pleased that I press forward despite the clamorous noise inside me telling me not to. 

Still, one day I would love to be so free in worship – among others – that I could dance, or at least that I could lift my hands with eyes open and not a single bit of inner dialogue necessary. 

Will it happen?  I don’t know.  All I know to do, meanwhile, is keep pressing forward.  I will know when – IF – I get there.  for now, where I am is a blessing, too. 


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