God's alternate plan bursts ego bubble

Friday, May 28, 2010

Mr. Beckham, our principal, had been stressing this day's importance since last September, and now it was here. The national accreditation team was coming to Fort Scott High School to determine if we were "on a path of continuous improvement." Everything would be scrutinized...teachers, counselors, students, parents, the Board of Education. You name it, the "team" was checking it out. They would walk the halls, peek into classrooms, and check for leaky toilets. Well, maybe not the toilets, but you get the point.

We were celebrating our state results from reading, math, and science where, for the first time, we had 90 percent of our students reach the proficient category. Leading the SEK and most of the state with these numbers, we were feeling pretty good about ourselves, but test numbers were only part of what the accreditation team evaluated.

I was on the teacher-team. For approximately an hour, several of us educators met in the library where we were questioned about our experiences at FSHS. Todd Ferguson was on the accreditation panel -- a familiar face, since he last year had been employed at our school. We greeted each other, and I sat down next to him. Jim Day, the head of the accreditation team, asked us to introduce ourselves. When it was my turn, I told who I was and what I teach -- "speech and drama." Mr. Day lit up.

"I've heard of you. You have quite the program. Congratulations on all of your successes and what you've done with these kids."

"Well, thank you," I responded, unsure if I should give a little speech or at least offer an autograph. This was exciting. A national accreditor had heard of my drama program!

Todd leaned my direction. I knew what he was going to say -- "Very impressive, Patty." I began smiling before he said a word.

"He thinks you're the debate coach," he whispered.

It took about five seconds to register.

Surely Todd was kidding ... payback for those few, harmless pranks Polly Herman and I had played on him his first year as our assistant principal. Boy, some people are SO immature! I thought.

At the end of our interrogation, as I was leaving the room, Jim stopped me. "You really do a great job -- very impressive."

"Thank you," I answered, looking around to see if Todd was in earshot.

"Those debaters have quite a reputation for excellence."

I think I heard Todd smirk from behind the nonfiction section.

Have you ever gotten a little puffed up, only to have some verbal needle puncture your egotistical balloon?

Peter was one who knew all too well what that was like. Matthew 16 tells us that when Peter declared Jesus would not suffer the persecution He had predicted, Jesus rebuked him: "Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me..."

Now if that wouldn't zip my lips, I don't know what would. But not Peter. Within a week, Jesus took Peter, James, and John to the top of a mountain where He physically was transfigured before them. Suddenly Elijah and Moses appeared and began talking to Jesus. Peter, having to get in on the action, interrupted the conversation. "Rabbi, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters -- one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah." (My paraphrase: "This is so cool; let's just all hang up here for a while.") "Then a cloud appeared and enveloped them, and a voice came from the cloud: 'This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!' (In other words, God's advice: "Shut ye up, Peter.")

Peter didn't stop there, however. The night before Jesus was crucified, Peter boldly swore his undying love for Jesus. Jesus knew better and prophesied, "You yourself this very night, before a cock crows twice, shall three times deny Me." Peter vehemently argued, but within a few hours, he did exactly that. And wept because of it.

When Jesus was confronted by the angry mob in the Garden of Gethsemane, it was Peter who grabbed his sword and cut off the ear of the high priest's slave. Can't you imagine how gallant he must have felt, defending his friend ... until, that is, Jesus told Peter to put his sword away, picked the bloody ear out of the dust, and reattached it to the side of the arresting soldier's head. From feeling noble to feeling like a nobody, Peter was the poster child. The following day was no exception. Peter, the one who promised to stand by Jesus "even unto death," ran for cover when he saw his Messiah hanging on the cross.

We can read the rest of the story in Acts. Peter finally "got it together" after Pentecost and became a powerful witness for Christ. Once he learned that it was all about others and not about him, he was ready to change the Kingdom.

Peter teaches me much. Just as soon as I think it's all about me, God shows me He has an alternate plan. In my case, I had an opportunity to share with Brian Weilert, the debate coach, how much he is admired. Too, I had a story for this week's writing. Maybe that was my mountaintop experience, after all.