Breath on Paper small group is taking a break between semesters. For the next few weeks we are taking advantage of this time off, we hope you enjoy revisiting our favorites. We will return June 12th.
She was the exact opposite of what an educator, an influencer of young minds should be; my 12th grade English/Lit teacher. She had so much power to shape the character of the students she taught, yet she chose to tear them down rather than build them up.
The only way to avoid her class was to take Advanced English/Lit, which I qualified for. However, by the time I got to register, that class was full. Everyone else had the same idea.
Having no choice, I accepted the challenge with a writing college major as my motivation. What college was going to take me seriously as a writer if I couldn’t excel in a general English/Lit class? I started out with the goal of being a serious writer, but soon it just became about passing. When it was over I had no intention of ever writing again. It’s amazing how one teacher can not only crush one’s spirit but also make them hate their passion.
Now some, would debate that this lady was just trying to prepare you for college. For argument sake, I’ll throw her a bone and say her unconventional teaching methods, manipulative and even deceptive testing strategies could possibly be college prep tactics. However, there is absolutely NOTHING that can convince me that her cruel blows to publicly humiliate and embarrass her students was for any other reason than her own amusement, poops, grins and giggles. She clearly got her jollies from making fun of her students, calling them stupid or worthless, in a condescending tone that would set the rest of the class to laughter. Unless you were one of the lucky few she favored; and she did have favorites. I wasn’t one. Nor were countless others who’s spirits she crushed over the years.
It wasn’t till much later that I began to wonder why she was the way she was. What devastating life experiences had made her this way? She’d obviously been this way for a very long time, for her reputation preceded her by decades and still does, even after retirement. She was tenure, which basically meant she was untouchable. No doubt in mind she knew her reputation and took pride in it; for she had no desire to reverse it.
I’d heard rumors that her husband had died or left her; that her only son cut her out of his life and also that she was living with cancer in her body. I’m not sure if any of this was accurate, but decided if it was remotely close, that could harden any heart if not focused on the goodness of the Lord. In thinking on this, I began to have compassion for her who seemed to have none for those who’d she’d been entrusted to shepherd.
As for me, clearly the Lord resurrected in me that which I believed was dead. The truth is, this lady did NOT singlehandedly sabotage my future as a writer. There were other factors that came into play that I couldn’t see. She was just the match that started the fire. That trial had a purpose and God had reasons for allowing me to walk through it to teach me and grow my character. Devastating as it was, it set me on a path of self-discovery. Yes, I WAS born to write but what I discovered was that my identity is to be in Him, not in the talent He gave me.
From the moment we take our first breath, we immediately begin shaping into the people we will grow to be. Although we’re born sinners, we will have countless opportunities to be influenced by both good and evil. It’s in those experiences that we will have the choice as to which develops our character, whether we realize the choice is ours or not.
For many who walk through countless turmoils and are subject to the unkindnesses of the world, they become blind to the good that does exist and therefore allow their hearts to become a reflection of the cruel bitterness they have experienced. Seeking comfort in the misery of others and often so, being the source of it; reveling in others failures.
I think on our lady of the week and wonder what it was she experienced that caused her heart to be so calloused and cruel. How different things could’ve been had she chosen to respond differently.
There are many lessons I learned from that season. The most encouraging is this: No one, not even an all-powerful Jezebel, can keep you from your God-given calling and destiny. Ask Elijah. Better yet, ask me. I may have had to camp out in the wilderness a while, but inevitably, God delivered me from it. It may have been 12 years later, but I picked up my pen again, this time allowing Him to be the voice in my words.
The scars we bear aren’t just reminders of the pain we experienced, BUT are evidence of the things we victoriously overcame. None of it is ever in vain.
Today’s post was the 2nd part and conclusion to yesterday’s part 1 post. Click here if you missed it.
Heather Whidden loves Jesus, is married to her best friend and is mother of 3 blessings. She is a professional photographer and has a heart for ministry. She loves spending time with her family and friends, writing, reading, and traveling. Time and people is what she values most. You can read more about her here.