Sometimes, a simple moment can stick with us and never let go. For some reason, I’m thinking this evening about one of them…an incident that happened back in 7th grade. It’s something I don’t think I’ll ever forget.
We were in English class, and the teacher, Mrs. Jennings, was at the overhead projector with that day’s vocabulary list. Many of our faces displayed the puzzlement we felt as we looked at words we weren’t sure how to pronounce, much less work into normal conversation.
But about midway down the list, after a word that had absolutely nothing to do with religion (I know this because I was searching for a reason to explain it!), she stopped and looked up at all of us and said that there are times when we have a problem, or when we think we have a problem that we just can’t handle. There was dead silence, as everyone stopped writing. Then she said:
“When you have a problem that’s too big, just give it back to God.”
“God won’t give you anything that is really more than you can handle,” she continued, “but when it feels like He has, you just have to say, ‘God, I can’t deal with this. You’ve got to take it. And He will.'”
After this, she went on with the vocabulary list and never again mentioned anything about religion or faith. I wish now that I had recovered from the surprise of this unexpected religious advice quickly enough to stay after class and just ask if there was something she was going through at that moment that she felt was “too big.”
She taught for many years after that, and I understand that she retired in the early 1990’s. But that one pearl of wisdom, more than any vocabulary word possibly could have, has stuck with me ever since. I think about it from time to time…I remember the look on her face as she said it. I remember the hush that fell across the room like a blanket. And I remember the meaning of her words and how I’ve used them over the years.
I hope she’s still around, and that somehow she finds out that this simple advice had a more profound impact than she probably imagined it ever could. And I hope that everyone who reads this takes from it what I have over the years. Thanks, Mrs. Jennings…and God Bless.