Prayer Ending?

Prayer Continuing

     Why is it that what I’m praying moves from words to flesh? Last week, the prayer at the beginning of the day came to life in the shape of a math teacher.

An awful note came home on my son’s test. It took legitimate criticism into the land of undeserved negative reinforcement. When I spoke with its author, expressing my concern over the comments and asking to meet with her, she was surprised. If I had no issue with the her assessment of my son’s skills, why would I object to the note? A week and a few notes to school later, I went to meet her.

The easiest way to make her understand what she did wrong: wave my PhD and years of educational theory in front of her and perform a cutting assessment of the note. Use big words and direct eye contact. Prepare counter arguments in advance, and make sure she wouldn’t be sending notes like that again – to my son or any other student in her class. Turnabout is fair play, after all. Except I’ve spent the last couple of weeks asking God to “teach me to act firmly and wisely, without embittering and embarrassing others.”

I went to the meeting, listened to the teacher, and asked her to listen to what she wrote. What I learned: she is a good teacher of math, not such a good teacher of children. There was no ill intention, just a lack of emotional understanding – no ability to see that how something is expressed matters. Because she had already adopted a more positive attitude toward my son, I let the matter drop. I asked that future notes be sent to me rather than my son. No one was embarrassed or left embittered, and my son won’t have to read hurtful notes.

My son and I settled on a plan: he will forgive her verbal missteps and I will diligently reinterpret future notes. We will take into consideration her shortcomings and feelings, and continue to give her the benefit of the doubt. If another incident arises, I will meet with her again. We will keep praying for her, caring about her into the future. Will she have any awareness or gratitude for this? I don’t know, but I am aware of the grace I received: the chance to act firmly and wisely, without embittering and embarrassing another – and to see my son do the same. For such grace, I give thanks.

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I am a Christian educator and writer.I have worked in churches, denominational offices, and seminaries. I have a PhD in Theology from Princeton Theological Seminary, with a focus on Practical Theology and educating in faith. In 2010, my book, "How the Other Half Lives: the challenges facing clergy spouses and partners," was published by Pilgrim Press. I believe that words can build doorways that lead to encounters with God through the Spirit.

2 thoughts on “Prayer Ending?”

  1. I think it is wonderful how God prepared you for this encounter and how you listened to and internalized that preparation. What a great and moving example for all of us. Thank you for sharing this!

    1. Thanks, Bill! I guess the lessons come along when needed…I think the last few years went into this one. Peace, Johnna

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