Saturday, December 13, 2008
THE CHRISTMAS PROGRAM
Yesterday I thought about Christmas programs.
I had to take my car to the dealership for some minor service and on the way, I passed the preschool where I taught for 16 years. I smiled as I thought about all the Christmas programs. All 16 of them! The costumes, the practices, kids falling off the risers, the pulling-out of my hair, hearing the kids sing... those are all good memories.
Then my sister called and she was on her way to see my great nephew (and he is definitely great) in his little Christmas program. I would have loved to have been there. He was playing a wise man. He's so precious just sitting on the floor playing. How precious he must have been as a singing wise man!
I thought about the Christmas programs that Seth and Ethan had been in. And my mind got stuck on Ethan's first grade program. That year the four first grade classes combined for the program. The teachers sent a note home explaining how they had little time for practice and how important good behavior would be. They had come up with a point system. If a child misbehaved, was disruptive, etc., they would receive a point. Too many points and they couldn't be in the program.
I understood, but was horrified at the same time. Banning kids from a Christmas program? Being a little too excited? Misbehaving a little? Isn't that normal for kids at Christmas?
But like I said, I understood where they were coming from and stressed to Ethan how important it was for him to listen and to be respectful of his teachers.
It's not like Ethan had ever misbehaved at school. He hadn't. But, I knew the potential was there. And, with Ethan, I had learned not to be surprised! I was a little worried, and being the little-bit-obsessive mother I could be - I can hear my sister laughing as she reads the phrase"little-bit"- everyday when I would pick Ethan up from school, I would ask him if he had gotten any points. Everyday he said no.
I was a proud momma.
The day of the Christmas program, Jim and I got there early to get a good seat. Imagine my horror when Ethan filed into the cafeteria and up on the risers and I saw his little red, tear-stained face. Although he wasn't crying anymore, his little bottom lip was still quivering.
His teacher, Mrs. S., looked over at me and mouthed, "Everything is Okay. He's alright." Then she took her hands and patted them down in the air. Like, "Trust me lady. Don't go running up there and make a scene. I've got it under control." So, I didn't make a scene. I tried to get my heart rate down and I put a huge smile on my face. I kept smiling at Ethan. I was now the one mouthing, "It's Okay. Everything is alright." I begged him to sing. Just to sing. And, he finally did. He eventually sang his heart out.
When the program was over and we walked to Ethan's classroom, his teacher met me on the outside ramp. I think she sensed there was a mother tiger looking for blood. Mrs.S. told me that there had been a misunderstanding and one of the other first grade teachers, a young, new teacher, had told Ethan he couldn't be in the program. When Mrs. S. heard Ethan crying she asked what had happened. Mrs. S. took the new teacher aside and said that Ethan would be in the program, and then she put him back in line. Mrs. S. assured me that she had handled it, and it had truly been a misunderstanding. She never gave me the details and, without saying it out right, I knew she was asking me to just let it go. And, I did.
Hey, I had been a young new teacher at one time.
There's been lots of times when I have felt like I've been kicked out of line. Times when I've felt like I don't get to be in the program. Or play in the game. Times when I don't have the right to sing. The right to participate. The right to share.
Because I have too many points. Points I've received for messing up. Points for not trusting. Points for becoming depressed and losing hope. Points for being a cry-baby. Points for being ungrateful.
Points for missing signs. For not protecting my child. Points for misrepresenting God to my children. For teaching them things about Him that just aren't true. Points for wasting so much time on things that won't last. On things that aren't eternal.
Points for saying one thing but living another.
Points. Points. Points.
Out of the program. Out of chances.
Watching from a distance. Standing back. Feeling excluded. Observing instead of participating.
Knowing I have deserved every point I've been given. My points weren't given because of a misunderstanding. I earned every one. Some were earned because I was blind. Some because I was weak. But most because I just wanted to do things my way instead of His.
But just like Mrs. S. heard Ethan's cry, God hears mine.
And, He steps up and says, "Put her back in line. She's mine. She gets to play. She gets to participate."
"But what about all the points I earned? You know. For this and that. Remember?"
And He says, "What points? I don't remember any points? You have points? I don't think so."
"I laid all those points on my only beloved Son. He payed the price for all of them. Those points and all the ones you will earn in the future are gone. They're cast into the sea. Removed as far as the east is from the west. You, my child, are "point-less" and you always will be. Your account says, "The penalty for your points has already been paid. Paid in full. And don't let yourself, or anyone else, ever try to convince you that you can't play. That you can't be in the program. Your part in the program was established long before the foundation of the world was laid."
He says to me. "It's Okay. Everything is alright. I've got it under control. Your part is to sing."
"Just to sing."
Thank you, Mrs. S. for putting Ethan back in the program.
Thank you Jesus for leaving heaven, for coming to earth, for paying the price for my points.
So I can be in the program.
So I can sing!