Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Measure (01/10/13)
TITLE: Sorry, Isaac
By Margo McKenzie
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My feet left the safety of the Sunday school classroom, and not even thirty hours later, they entered the halls of a public school. Testing grounds. Routines had gone well for most of the day. I taught my classes, accepted students’ projects, and by the end of the day, I was conducting a monthly staff meeting. We welcomed back one staff member after her lengthy absence because Hurricane Sandy had rendered her home uninhabitable: no heat, no running water, damaged floors and walls. After two months away, she was finally able to eke out a life at home while contractors rebuilt around her. Her return was the last of ten staff members so affected.
Instead of the here-we-go-again with professional development, everyone appeared on-board. From the state house, Gracie Mansion and Tweed, they could feel the winds of change, and they wanted--needed to be on-board. Common Core Literacy Standards were sweeping the nation.
Then it happened. Without warning, without permission or apology, he stood in the threshold glaring and barking, “This year everyone must sign the declaration. And if you have a problem putting your signature on the dotted line, you can come down to my office and explain that to the auditors!” Then he directed his words toward me. “You know as far as I’m concerned. . .”
What thinking person would lend her signature to a document containing information she could not verify? I was sure that my concerns were just when I expressed just that earlier in a private conversation.
I couldn't believe he was yelling at me! In the middle of a meeting! I had heard this unprofessional, rancorous tone too many times.
I wanted to respect him, but he was so blatantly disrespectful. I wanted to be compliant, but his request was outrageous, and his timing was even worst. I wanted to be a team player, but I no longer felt a part of the team. Shouldn’t we have huddled over this? Trying to be like Jesus is hard work. I was thinking: maybe this isn’t the time for modesty; maybe it’s the time for righteous indignation. (That would have been convenient.) I wanted to exercise humility and put myself last, but his request was not a thoughtful one, and so I knew I could not comply. Yes, he was my supervisor, and I wanted to give him the respect that his position merited, but he made the gesture impossible.
The most I could do in the split seconds of this exchange was measure my words ever so carefully. Lord, please don’t let my tongue string together any words that I’ll regret tomorrow, even though my tongue wanted me to set it free right then. I knew I had to say something, and I did, but Isaac Newton would not have been happy. My response, after all, did not match the ferocity of the offense. Maybe Isaac was wrong. In human affairs, an equally opposite reaction to vitriol only results in war. In fact, when the reaction is unequal, the message is more powerful. And so, in the lowest voice that I could muster for this emotionally-charged moment, I said, “Surely, you can understand my position.” Then he looked at me in stern silence, and he walked away. The battle was over—for now. A soft answer did turn away wrath--at least for a while. I guess being Christ-like comes in many forms. Selah!
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