Appearances Matter- Part Three
The chaos I encountered on my first day, in one school, remains a vivid memory. The previous teacher resigned in the middle of the semester for mysterious reasons. When I entered my new classroom, hours before my first class, I gasped.. Apparently, the two weeks between my initial interview and subsequent acceptance of the position, turned into anarchy for the school choirs, under various substitute teachers.
The spacious vocal music room, filled with possibilities two weeks prior, now looked like a set from “Girls Gone Wild.” Empty fast food bags and wrappers, (some with food still in them) Slurpee cups, sheet music, candy wrappers, and crumpled schoolwork, decorated much of the floor. Trash cans overflowed so someone made attempts to heap much of the garbage in several corners. It appeared even the custodians feared to enter the room. Chairs were no longer in the neat rows they had been in when I’d toured the room with the principal. There were a few in conversational groups, but many were turned upside down and some even stacked up by the windows in a manner that looked like students had been traversing in and out of the windows of the basement classroom.
The mess reached epic proportions in every part of the room, like the walk-in closet, I couldn’t step into, and the pillaging of the teacher’s desk, but I think you get the idea. The chaos, trash and signs of neglect everywhere ignited a righteous fire in me. I strode to the custodial office and requested trash bags, a vacuum and various cleaning supplies from the supervisor. He seemed surprised but complied. I then made it clear, kindly, that I expected our trash cans emptied each night, and our room be given the same general cleaning as any other classroom in the building.
“Sure,” he said, overly casual. “As long as my crew doesn’t have to walk through those kids cast off cheeseburgers and burritos to do it. “
“Deal,” I said just as casually.
For the next two hours, I worked like a house afire to restore a semblance of order before my first class arrived. I struggled not to laugh as each group of students entered and loud, hallway conversations dropped in mid-sentence as soon as they saw the room’s appearance. Muttered cracks like “Dude, this one’s serious,” and general “Whoa’s” mixed with delighted smiles from students who probably didn’t enjoy watching their choir room turn into a landfill.
In time, I restored order to the room. I filled all the bulletin boards with posters and interesting musical stuff, (this hadn’t been done in many years), created spaces for small- group work, and did everything else within my power and budget to turn the choir room into an eye-pleasing place to come and make music. I kept flowers or plants on my desk and always recognized every holiday with appropriate décor. Chore posters for each class rotated classroom maintenance, and I recruited several student librarians to corral all our music.
Of course, I climbed mountains discipline-wise also, for the first couple months or so, as law and order had long been absent from the choirs. Eventually, students started to make connections to order and beauty, in their music and their surroundings. This theme applied to everything that happened in my classroom. Sometimes I’d catch glimpses of other teachers peeking on my classes, skeptical that the formerly wild mustangs now quietly worked on theory, sang their hearts out and ran their own sectionals effectively.
Chaos is not part of God’s original design for earth. As soon as mankind sinned, Satan launched his assault of anarchy against all of God’s design. We continue to live in a world that is on a course of steady disorder until Christ returns, and the new heavens and earth come to be. As children of God, he commands us to imitate Christ, who brought peace into situations of pure bedlam.
For example, consider the demon-possessed folks mentioned in the gospels, who terrorized entire regions. Can you imagine how life changed, not only for the demoniac, but for those who lived nearby? No longer did they fear their children might accidentally wander into a terrifying situation. Their sleep was no longer disrupted by the howls and screams of the tormented. With one act of power and compassion, Jesus changed the lives of many. He brought peace into chaos.
Cleaning up my disastrous classroom seems small compared to setting someone free of demons, however, it is the important task God issued to me at that time. By restoring order in my classroom, a chain of events occurred. Students behaved better. Focused students conquered their vocal music. Choir concerts became a joy not just for the them but their family and friends also. Choir class became a bright spot in many student’s school days, especially for those who struggled academically. Several students chose to attend college and obtain music degrees themselves. I suspect they are out there somewhere, making music in orderly classrooms and changing lives.
Are you currently planted in a chaotic environment at work, school, home or elsewhere? If not, God may present you with a situation that needs beauty and order restored to it. I remember a mission trip where our team spent ten hours a day sorting through a warehouse of clothes donated to an inner-city ministry. They were simply chucked in giant piles in order of how they’d been donated. That many hours in a metal pole barn in Mississippi, in August, without air conditioning, challenged us on many levels. Still, we took great pride in sorting and organizing to such a degree that the ministry could distribute much-needed clothing to people living below the poverty line.
It’s so tempting to turn our backs on messes we didn’t create. That’s not what Jesus did, though. Look around your world a bit, in places where you possess influence or favor. You could easily earn the right to share Christ with someone simply by cleaning something up.
Such a simple principle — and excellent illustration.
Why is this so hard for us?
Likely the discipline aspect– and our selfish nature that wants to think “not my job”.
Thank you for this Sharon- am sure you won’t mind if I retell the story elsewhere.