Thursday, August 10, 2006

Byrning Away Summer

They’re back… a summer older, a bit taller, and they even missed me. They walked into the classroom together, as if they’d planned their entrance with a phone call the previous night. The Troublemint Twins grinned and said in unison, “Hey, Deaconess! Didja miss us? Are you glad to see us?”

In fact, I hadn’t. Yes, I was.

School started midweek this year. I planned to use that time to ease the class into the schedule and out of their summer lollygags. Three days seemed reasonable to remind students of proper manners in hallways and outside other classroom doors.

Still, the Troublemint Twins wouldn’t have it. Nope, Byrne decided “cold turkey” was the only way to go, and Jeremiah agreed. The bathroom is close to the K-4/5 classroom. Noise in line from my class means a disruption to that classroom. On the first day of school, yesterday, the entire class needed a gentle reminder that while in line they should remain silent. Well, that didn’t work for the Twins, so they had to be removed from the area. That means they were sent back to the classroom for a few minutes so they could settle down a bit. The first time happened at snack time, just before recess. The process repeated itself just before lunch, which means the boys were both late for lunch.

When I went back to the classroom to get the pair I said, “Now gentlemen, we don’t want to do this again tomorrow, do we? You’re Second Graders this year…”

Byrne cut me off. He was going to do the talking. He reckoned he knew my mind better than I knew it myself.

“Yup. And if we do it tomorrow we’ll get sentences.”

“Yeah,” said Jeremiah with a knowing look.

Hmmm… I thought. This ought to be interesting. Works for me.

Mind you now, there are two new ones to my crew, and Sean and Jacob both have returned. Sean’s taking full advantage of three days of grace breaking into the school routine, but he’ll stop talking when reminded. David is in Third Grade, very quiet and watchful. When he grins I know he’s really pleased with something. It’s coming more often than not. Erika, also Third Grade, bubbles over with enthusiasm and wonders “how anyone puts up with so many boys.” I look at her and say, “You do it, too, don’t you?” These three days are a learning curve for her, too. Jacob, the oldest of the bunch, doesn’t need three days to break in. He knows the ropes and shows them by example.

Snack time rolled around today and the Twins just couldn’t help being themselves. That was all fine and dandy until I was again giving the crew their gentle reminder. Right on cue, Byrne leaned over to Jeremiah as I was speaking and began talking.

I looked at him, he looked at me, and I pointed toward our classroom. He walked the long walk back.

I will listen while my teacher is speaking. Seven times.

“I promised,” he said later through sobs. “I promised my dad I wouldn’t get into trouble.”

“Don’t make promises you can’t keep,” I replied. He looked at me in surprise.

He had meant his promise to his father. He had wanted to keep it. I asked Byrne to tell me what Commandments were involved in what he had done: First and Fourth. I asked him how he thought he could honor a promise to his father when he couldn’t keep the First Commandment. Then it clicked. “Oh, yeah. I don’t love God. So sometimes I can’t obey my father. I couldn’t keep my promise, even if I want to. But I want to anyway. And I still want to try.” Who says Second Graders can’t “do” logic?

“Byrne,” I said, “who takes all the sin you have away from you? What happens to it?”

This Byrne knows, and confesses. “Jesus takes my sin to the cross. He died for my sin, and it is gone. He forgives me.”

“That’s right. And because he forgives you, I am able to say the same to you. I’m sure your dad will, too.”

Don’t we just want so very much to be good, to love Our Father with all our minds, hearts, and souls? Sometimes, though, we are so quick on the lip making promises that we haven’t finished listening to what our Father has even spoken to us. Our minds and bodies are so busy with what we are going to say or do in return it as if we are on constant “send” mode when we really ought to be set to “receive” mode.

Worse yet, as did the Twins, sometimes we even set our own punishment before we even listen to hear that God has wrapped us in his grace through his Son. Such is the case when folks say- whether in desperation or through ignorance- “I know I’ll probably go to hell for this…” It is as though they are choosing their own destination for whatever they have done despite Christ’s forgiveness spoken from the cross, and delivered to them in his Baptism, his Holy Supper and his Absolution.

Dr. Kenneth Korby wrote of it this way: “The life of prayer is the first act of faith, responding to what is heard. Having listened to the word, faith now joins the conversation with God. He who has spoken to us now listens to us. Give attention to the life of prayer.” Baptism: Ordination Into the Royal Priesthood of Believers, April 1988

Korby also spoke of the life of the baptized having the same character. That is, of listening to God’s word first before one has anything to do or say in reply. “The faithful servant wants to know the voice and the words of the speaker.” As is often the case, the best response to what has been heard will simply be “Amen!” What better can be said to a Savior who says, “I love you,” “I forgive you,” or “Believe?”

How has a summer matured Byrne? I told him that he had set the limits of his own discipline, not I. Had he kept silent and listened while his teacher was speaking as he ought to have done, he would not have endured the punishment of his own choosing. It was a big lesson to learn early in the year.

That reminds me of another Korbyism: “The only way anyone gets into hell is by stepping over the dead body of Jesus.”

A whole lot of evil was mete in Christ’s flesh at the hands of his Father for the sake of mankind’s good. Byrne is beginning to get a tiny glimmer of that truth.

Summer was kind to the boy. Dealing with Byrne is always God’s kindness to me. Yeah, I was glad to see them both.


Marie N. said...

I like the idea of tying the commandments in with the discipline.

Dcs. Emily Carder said...

It is catechetical, tying discipline to Baptism. The children learn that ultimately the rules applied to them are not arbitrary constructions for the most part. Also, that the authority of "parents and other authorities" comes not from their own person, but from God's ordering of families, church and society. The kids can get frustrated with me all they want and I look at them and say, "Who are you really angry with?" "Oh, yeah... God," they rightly reply.

Of course, when I am wrong, that is another situation. The commandments are there for them to apply to me as well - as are Christ's words of forgiveness which they also speak to me after I say "I'm sorry" to them.