A Teacher, a Piece of Toilet Paper, and a Lesson in Grace
June 8, 2021
Out of all the moments we experience in our daily lives, there are certain memories that seem to be seared into our stories. I can’t remember what I ate last week, but I will never forget a moment in Mrs. Short’s 3rd grade class.
I have never enjoyed being cold. Growing up in the Midwest, my elementary school had a policy that if it was above freezing, we went outside. Even as a 9 year old, I thought this was crazy.
One winter morning, I stared a the clock, dreading recess, so when it was time for a bathroom break, I devised this seemingly flawless plan to create a note to excuse myself from the forced playtime. I snuck a pencil into my pocket and proceeded to hide in a stall until I had written a note on a piece of tissue-paper thin toilet paper. I have never claimed to be a genius, but my nine year old self thought this would work. I signed it from mom and tucked it away until recess time.
As Mrs. Short announced that the students were free to head outside where the teacher on duty that day oversaw them, I approached her and handed my toilet paper note where my “mother” insisted it was too cold for me to go outside that day.
I stood expectantly waiting for a reply. I began to question if it would work. You know those moments when you had a good idea but as time went on you began to backpedal. I began to sweat it. I had lied, and I knew I was busted.
From the smirk slowly distorting Mrs. Short’s normally stoic face, even at a young age, I knew she didn’t buy it. I was prepared for questions…a lecture…maybe even being sent to the principal’s office.
But, all that came was, “Well, for today, I could sure use some help with a few things.” And she put me to work. I loved every moment of it. And, I didn’t need a lecture, because she let me know, without so many words, that it wouldn’t become habit, that lying is wrong, and parents don’t use crayon on school toilet paper for excusing their kids from recess. 🙂
The Power of a Story
Stories don’t have to be profound to make huge impacts on our lives. Some of the most poignant memories in my life have happened in these ordinary moments of the daily rituals of life.
Can you imagine what my story would be if I had received what I deserved in that moment? If Mrs. Short had demeaned me in front of my peers…if I had been sent to the office for lying to a teacher…if she had called my parents to tell them what a ridiculous child I was?
But my teacher knew who I really was and that this was just a girl who hated to be cold and had a fondness for her teacher and loved to help.
I never used anymore toilet paper to forge notes from my parents. I also remember asking God to forgive me for lying. I wasn’t mature or brave enough to verbalize it to Mrs. Short. But she knew. We exchanged an unspoken understanding as we worked to clean the room.
A Lesson in Grace
“For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth (showed) his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
Romans 5:6-8 KJV
God didn’t wait for us to show our worth before He sent His son to the cross. While we were dead in our sins, Christ died for us. He calls to us to come even before we humble ourselves before Him. This is the mystery of His grace and mercy to us. He sees our attempts to write our own notes and invites us into a better way. He calls us to relationship.
Imagine what a small grace offered could do for someone else who is metaphorically tired of going out in the cold when they could be inside with the books and warmth. Maybe they are afraid to simply ask. Maybe their greater need is to work alongside a teacher and experience a small kindness with no strings attached.
Have you thanked God lately for rescuing you when you didn’t deserve it?
Have you allowed the grace of God to fill you to overflowing so that it spills out onto others who need a glimpse of it for themselves?
Growing in our faith requires us to practice what we read and understand about God. We are to be imitators of Christ. This is the not-so-secret, secret to knowing God. Nothing delights Him more than seeing that we walk in truth.
In what ways can you be a Mrs. Short today and give out grace to someone who doesn’t deserve it? To someone who makes a mistake or lacks common sense even? 🙂 If you have experienced one of these simple, unforgettable lessons in grace, I would love to hear about it in the comments below!