In the sixties, staying in from lunch recess was a punishment and disgrace. For in that hour, we were free as the breeze to wander in a grassy field punctuated by mature trees and honeysuckle bushes where a wood and steel, low-tech playground offered manifold delights. Teachers didn’t organize games for you back then; they just heaved a relieved sigh and cut you loose to play. Recess meant the freedom to mull over problems, whoop and holler with friends, or just sit quietly, lost in dreams, before returning to the stifling confinement of the schoolroom. It was a kind of sabbath, and if a child had to miss it because of bad behavior (or the bad judgment of an evil teacher), he would be wildly envious of his liberated friends.
I only remember one really crazy/evil teacher from my elementary years, and if you, Mrs. Randalls, are still out there, I haven’t forgotten. I can’t recollect what drove her to shake me, screaming, “You never smile! You never smile!” and make me sit alone in a dark classroom while she and my classmates marched off to lunch and recess. Neither do I recall what inspired me to track her down at the teacher’s table where she was dining with her associates, and ask when I could eat. The memory of her subsequent behavior, affecting concern and telling the other teachers I was sick, and taking me to lie down in the principal’s office is not particularly painful (although I never did get to eat lunch). What hurt was the exclusion, and the implication that I was inferior and did not deserve to eat or play. I expect that my parents would have raised cain about the incident, but I never told them.
Years away from the classroom, and teachers, good and bad, I occasionally catch myself feeling like that ostracized eight year old. What my particular woes are makes no difference; the point is that I appear to be suffering more than my friends and I don’t like it. “If I weren’t inferior, intractable and unlovely,” I tell myself, “I might be having more fun.” God, like Mrs. R., is keeping me in from recess, and my subconscious conclusion to the endless question of “why ” is that He must love me less. But the electrifying truth is that He doesn’t love me less, because God doesn’t do things by halves. Where God loves, He loves totally. Tozer wrote:
“It is a strange and beautiful eccentricity of the free God that He has allowed His heart to be emotionally identified with men. Self-sufficient as He is, He wants our love and will not be satisfied till He gets it. Free as He is, He has let His heart be bound to us forever.”
The truth is liberating. Regardless of what is going on around me, a deeply personal principle is in operation: namely that God loves me according to His nature, and that means fully, always. Good times, hard times, He always desires what is best for me. Knowing this, I can be glad that— if I have to sit out recess sometimes—He will sit right there with me.
I think we’ve all had teachers like this–your particular one sounds more than a little evil. But the rejection, ostracism, feeling like you’re not enough or as good is devastating to kids–and us. Thanks for this look at a gloriously loving God who has CHOSEN to love us lavishly. Amazing grace! Bountiful mercy! Unending love! None of which we deserve. Outstanding writing, my friend, I can see little Debby sitting in that room–and then marching into her teacher to ask about lunch.