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Heart Matters

It had been a difficult year. As "luck" would have it, three out of the 12 first- and second-graders in my Sunday school class had distinct behavior problems. Jill, Martye, and Ted were my challenging children.

"I'm not getting through to anyone this year," I complained to the teacher who had this group the year before. "I'm just spinning wheels, trying to keep Ted and Martye from destroying the place and Jill from hitting, biting, and name calling."

These weren't "bad" children. In fact, Martye and Jill gave some of the best hugs, and Ted had the most contagious smile. But my other students got far less attention than they deserved, heard lots of half-completed Bible stories, and had to finish most craft projects at home. I felt totally inadequate and wondered why I ever thought I could share God's love with anyone, let alone children. Every week I prayed for help, but by the end of each class, I found myself mentally preparing my resignation.

One Sunday morning, the class had been working especially hard on a craft project, and things were going quite well for a change. That was until Liza had a crisis. She wore overalls that day with large buttons on the shoulder straps. She left the room to go to the bathroom, but it took a long time for her to return.

After a while, I turned to see Liza standing behind me, tears streaming down her face. She pulled me away from the craft table and whispered, "I couldn't get my buttons undone. Oh, Mrs. Shauers! I got wet."

I knelt to hug her. Already I could envision Ted, Martye, and Jill jumping up and down taunting Liza with shouts of "Baby, Baby Wet-Pants!"

"We'll find your mom," I whispered, trying to lead Liza out of the room before the other children noticed.

Too late.

They noticed.

"What happened?" Martye bellowed. I cringed.

"Did a mugger get her?" Ted screeched.

The other children didn't say a word, not even Jill. I knew I was stuck between the children's curious stares and the exit.

"Liza's overalls have very large buttons," I said, desperately praying that God would soften these kids' hearts. "She couldn't get her clothes down in time."

I held my breath waiting for the eruption, but there was none. God answered my cries.

"Oh!" Jill gasped, touching Liza's hand gently. With tears in her eyes she added, "That happened to me last year at school."

"And me one time," Martye offered as she gave Liza a big hug.

Ted just looked down at his feet and squirmed, but I could sense his empathy. The other children were equally supportive. Everyone had a comforting story to tell about a bad accident that happened to them or a friend. Liza experienced, firsthand, Christian love and support from all my children -- even my most challenging ones.

I, too, experienced God's grace. I ended that session in tears -- tears of thanksgiving that God allowed me the privilege of helping him teach these children what Christian love is all about.

Just the other day, Ted pulled a small, slightly bent picture from his pocket and carefully dusted off the cracker crumbs.

"It's for you," he said. "My new sister. I thought you'd like to have it. She'll be in your class, some day, when she's big like me."

The good Lord willing, I'll be in that classroom for God to help me show Ted's sister and other children what Christian love is all about. cm


Margaret Shauers is a Sunday school teacher in Great Bend, Kansas.

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