The evening before 7th grade school photos my Grandma thought it would be a great idea to have her live in care taker perm my hair. Given the fact this lady had evidently gone to beauty school at some point in her life and I wanted to look extra special for my pictures, I went along with Grandma’s idea, which made her super thrilled! The next day, I had my new black sweater picked out, a little blue eyeliner for that WOW factor and well, as you can see my fuzzy black hair to match!! I HATED this picture, I actually would’ve said until last night, “I hate this picture” when for whatever reason (He knows) God brought it to mind and a memory that I had not thought of since the 7th grade, which has been about a good 30ish years for me.
How many of you can agree that the junior high years are not easy? That would be an UNDERSTATEMENT! For 7th and 8th grade, I went to a private school, looking back, this was a complete God send as I honestly, don’t know that I would’ve survived my high school years without having some of the life-giving influences that I received during this time. I had a couple of teachers, that for whatever reason, just made me feel (they probably made everyone feel this way) like I was somebody special, like I had potential, like I had something of value to bring to the table.
My 7th grade teacher was Mr. Newman. Just saying his name in my mind makes me smile because he was always such a wonder to my 12-year-old brain. I have a sneaking suspicion, he’d probably be a wonder to my 40 something year old brain as well 🙂 My 7th grade self would describe him as very tall and lean, he was a runner. I always thought off him as quite a brainiac, a real deep river, although, I considered him humble as well, so I know he would not think of himself in such terms. I would say Mr. Newman was a bit odd, but odd in the best senses of that word. Also, I’m not sure if you’re aware or not, but there are certain men that can wear turtle necks and certain men that cannot, Mr. Newman could rock a turtle neck! He could be very serious, but uproariously funny! He made history come alive like no other teacher I’ve had and I loved when he would read to the class, because he would do so in different voices and accents and sometimes he would make himself laugh, I mean really laugh! There were times he would make himself laugh so hard that he would roll in fits of laughter on the floor! There were a couple of times I wondered, “is he gonna be ok?” I think he enjoyed keeping us on our toes. He seemed so passionate and had such deep convictions but yet had this other side that just let loose like no one I’d ever seen. He held himself to a high standard, I saw that he pushed himself to learn and grow and had a thirst for doing so and it made me want to do the same.
It was nearing the end of the 7th grade year and our yearbooks had been passed out. Of course, we all wanted Mr. Newman to sign them and he made sure to give each student’s hand written message undivided attention. Several were gathered around his desk waiting their turn for his autograph and now it was my turn. He was flipping through my yearbook and OOPS! I forgot I had done that! Shame hits me! Mr. Newman, of course turned to the page of my school photo, the one I hated. My heart sank as he looked down at my fuzzy hair picture to see that I had taken ink pen and crossed my face out. I hated that picture, I hated how I looked, but now Mr. Newman’s disapproval on top of it was going to shove my junior high self over the brink!
The response was not what I anticipated, Mr. Newman locked eyes with me, put one hand on my hand and gave me an intense look and I knew he was very serious. It is difficult to describe how he was able to do it, but somehow he was able to communicate to me in a very authoritative yet loving way, and he simply said, “We don’t treat God’s work like this”. That moment hung there for what seemed like an eternity, he smiled at me, and I nodded my head in a “Yes sir, I understand Sir” type nod. He signed my yearbook and we moved on.
Even now, I am overcome with emotion as I think back on that moment and I think there are probably a few reasons why:
- I need to hear the reminder again, “we don’t treat God’s work like this.” Maybe, even more importantly, I need to hear it in the same way I heard it then. Not something else I’m doing wrong, or another person I’m disappointing, but instead I see you, I believe in you, so “no more”.
- I’m so thankful that God sends people into our lives to speak truth and life and encouragement! People who can see things in us we don’t see in ourselves, who believe in us, when we don’t believe in us. I soooo desire to be that in the lives of those I touch! What a gift we give, when we see the goodness and potential in someone else and simply tell them, encourage them and believe in them! It’s life changing!!
- My Grandma passed away in May of my 7th grade year so regardless of how I feel about the picture, I’m glad I let her have her way. My teacher, Mr. Newman passed away in 2010. I wonder if they’ve had a chance to meet? It makes me smile to think 🙂
For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. – Ephesians 2:10 (NLT)