He wanted to chatter about this-n-that. I’d asked him to get to his work. So I reminded him that his work needed his attention more than I needed his.
“I’m sorry if I offended you!” He said with as much attitude as a nine-year-old could muster.
So the manipulation war was on. That’s what it was. The focus was now on me for what I was doing and feeling. At first I was going to slough it off, “You didn’t offend me. Just get your work completed.” He growled at me.
Then I thought the better of it.
“You know what, you did offend me.” Now I had his attention completely, and it wasn’t pretty.
He hadn’t done what I asked him to do. It was a simple request: Do your work. At its completion, there would have been plenty of time for me to focus on what he wanted to tell me. But he chose to postpone his work by reversing the order, (a habit of his), causing me to issue a reminder to do his work. That irritated him, which made him lash out at me.
So yes, I was offended. For that, I forgave him.
He looked at me a full second. Then he smiled and said, “Thank you.” He went back to his work without another word.
This one needs to be prodded firmly. He’s so very bright that he sometimes out-manipulates himself. We are practicing Psalm 139 for the school closing. For whatever reason he can come up with, he won’t speak up with the rest of the group. He generally mumbles through. I know he knows the psalm. With only six in the class, they needed his help. Usually he says he’s afraid if he speaks too loudly he’ll drown out everyone else. We tell him to go ahead and be the leader of the pack! Yet, he’s still the silent one.
Yesterday he returned after a day’s absence with the “bug.” As we were walking to practice, he said he’d not be able to speak loudly because his stomach hurt still. To my mind I couldn’t see what the difference would be. The practice was dreadful. It seemed none of the children could recall the lines. So I decided to have another go after chapel. They agreed to “do their best.”
That’s all well and fine. I’m sure they all think they are doing their best, and I told them that. But there are other dimensions to doing and giving our best.
My disease is such that my future is not pretty. One day I will most likely wind up in a wheel chair or bedridden with someone changing my diapers. I told my students this. The day before we had planted some lilies, and they all worried about me bending over so much. I am in a “use it or loose it” situation. I have choices to make. I can choose to plant trees and lilies in gardens knowing full well that for days afterward I will hurt; I can exercise my body knowing that it hurts to do so; I can take long walks knowing that it hurts to do it; or I can do none of these things and lose the functions of my body more quickly even if I have my surgery. My not-too-pretty future comes sooner or later depending on whether or not I am willing to work through what hurts me now. And I can still say, “Well, I did my best.”
The beauty of the Christian life is that we don’t live it for ourselves, we live it for others. We aren’t reciting the psalm just to say words for ourselves, but for all those people who will be sitting in the pews. If legs ache, if tummies hurt, if throats are dry–all these things are just a teensy bit that will fly by and go away as soon as the psalm is said. What is important is that the people hear what God wants them to hear in the psalm. When we do our best for others, that’s a different kind of “best.”
It was the same thing for Jesus. He knew how much it would hurt to die, but He didn’t do it for Himself, He did it for you.
The children recited the psalm again, and excelled. This time, all six of them rang out with their voices. I asked my formerly silent one how it felt. “Not so good,” he said, “but great.” He was beaming.
They were all rewarded with special prize pencils.