Walk with me back to 2005, when I was a novice teacher. I wrote a devotion. I’m not sure what it was for–maybe it was for my 8th graders, or maybe it was for the teacher. (I’m leaning toward the former.) I am cleaning out old files, and I found it as I was tossing things from my filing cabinet that haven’t seen the light of day. Please take a moment to read it today and think about your own life.
Time warp with me back to 1995. Many of you may not be able to remember that far back, but allow me to tell you a story. It was my 8th grade year. The two things I really liked to do were sing in the choir and play in the band. We had rehearsal every day. In the spring, we put on an extravagant pops concert. It was amazing! After it was done, we didn’t have any music left to practice. Our choir director was awesome, and he gave us the last few rehearsal times to chat, sign yearbooks and whatnot. People usually sign yearbooks saying, “Have a great summer! See you next year!” Things like that. General things that didn’t really mean much. And there always had to be that one person who opened the yearbook to the middle and wrote between the staples, “Ha! I wrote on the crack!”
Tim was one of those people. The kind you didn’t like to associate with. You could rightly call him an outcast. He was clumsy… big ears, always tripping over one thing or another… and of course he wore huge Coke-bottle glasses. Of course, he was made fun of. I’m ashamed to be one of those people…of course, I could never be as blunt as some people who chose to say things to his face… I was worse. I giggled about how weird he was behind his back. I laughed when he tripped or when he said something in class. I was so two-faced it was unbelievable. I would pretend to be nice to his face, and then when he turned around, I stabbed him in the back.
In choir, we passed around our yearbooks, asking friends to sign them. Time asked me for mine. My brain was saying to me, “Oh no…what is he going to write…well, you might as well…” So I handed it over with a smile.
I didn’t open my yearbook until later that day. I read through the entries. “We’ll miss you next year! Be sure to write! Have fun in the sun!” and then… “Dear Rachel, Thank you for being a good friend. – Tim”
It tore my heart in two. Here I had been so mean to this kid, and he didn’t even know it. He only took what he had seen…me being “nice.”
Lord, who may dwell in your sacred tent?
Who may live on your holy mountain?
The one whose walk is blameless,
who does what is righteous,
who speaks the truth from their heart;
whose tongue utters no slander,
who does no wrong to a neighbor,
and casts no slur on others;
who despises a vile person
but honors those who fear the Lord;
who keeps an oath even when it hurts,
and does not change their mind;
who lends money to the poor without interest;
who does not accept a bribe against the innocent.
Whoever does these things
will never be shaken.
Can anyone claim to have done all these things correctly? I know I can’t. I try and try to keep my tongue in line, but as it says in Romans, “the good I want to do, I do not do, and the evil I do not want to do, this I keep on doing!” God tells us we must keep all his commands. Even thinking about breaking one of these commandments damns us to hell. Every thought like:
“I can’t believe she just said that; it’s so dumb.”
“I can’t believe that my teacher/parent didn’t let me do what I wanted! They’re so mean!”
“Why would someone wear that to school; it’s so ugly?”
“You can’t do that because you’re too short/tall/dumb/clumsy/fat/skinny/<insert other adjective here>”
Every sin we commit nails us closer and closer to the ground to a death that is worse than any of us can even imagine. All of us are guilty of these things, every day, and if we think we don’t need to worry about this… we’ll be in trouble. Every thought…every word…every look and every comment said behind the back of someone else puts YOU farther and farther away from the only one who can save you.
Jesus never said anything mean behind his disciple’s backs. He never talked back to his mom. He never stomped his foot because something didn’t go his way, and he never made mean comments when his disciples didn’t understand what he meant. He was patient, and he was loving…the same way we should be with others. No matter how many times we may stray off the path (and that is quite often) Jesus is always there to welcome us back…always. He reminds us that even though we fall short, he was always good enough. He is the only reason that we are even able to do all the things we do. He gives us the talents…abilities…time…resources. Because of his love for us, we want to give everything back to him.
I don’t know where Tim is today. I never saw him after 8th grade. I went away to high school, most likely he stayed in Minnesota. I still never forget those words that he wrote in my yearbook. Through those few words, he helped me learn to be a better friend…a real friend…one who tries to reflect the love Christ has for me.
Keep HIS song in your heart.