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Unexpected Hilarity

January 31, 2014

Nehemiah had finished his work.  Ezra read the Scriptures and the people listened. They committed themselves to what they heard.  Then they rejoiced.  Got happy. Had a great time.

Nehemiah 8:10 – “…the joy of The Lord is your strength…”

And brother, that’s the truth to a Bible teacher.

God gave us the gift of joy, and I love every minute of it.  I love to laugh, and more than the usual chuckle, mind you.  I cherish a good fall-down-and-hold-the-gut belly laugh, one that waters my eyes and gets me to choking.  Uncontrollable chortling can make my day, despite a weakness that keeps me snickering about the event long after it’s over.

I think my colleagues would agree that my classroom time is intense.  That intensity, however, should not be construed to mean militaristic – rather I would say it is, well, shall we say “extreme.”  The debates get fierce.  The quizzes get tough.  The application of the Word can get emotional.

And sometimes the classroom gets funny.  Really funny.

It’s not my nature to be an entertainer in the room, obviously.  I’m not up front to be the central figure in a daily sitcom, that’s for sure, but still, incidents will imagehappen unexpectedly around me.  Many times it seems as if I’m a spectator watching the vaudeville routines come onstage.

Oh, the memories of off-the-wall occasions in the classroom.  God has added the joy of unexpected hilarity to the passion of Bible teaching.

It happens each week.  Every year.  Where do I start?

One particular year that comes to mind was almost a decade back when I taught eighth grade. Recently some graduates of those days met me over coffee and brought back a flood of memories that I had almost forgotten, but delightfully recalled the truth that the Bible teaching ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ can at times be a real rollicking event.

I remember a little round-headed good natured boy named Adam who reminded me of Charlie Brown with glasses.  He was always grinning in class, a genuine feature on his countenance; he simply enjoyed the Bible class.  He was not without a few surprises for me, though.

“Hey, Dr. Zockoll, lookit,” he called out one December morning as students were filing into class.  “Lookit what I can do.”  He had jammed a green M & M into one nostril and a red M & M into the other.  The heat of his nasal breathing was melting the candy coatings, leaving him with a grotesque red and green moustache running over his upper lip.  “Merry Christmas,” he said.

It took me about ten minutes to regain my composure.

The there was the time that I sat with a group of the eighth graders at lunch, and while we were chatting. Adam had another trick up his sleeve.  “Lookit, Dr. Zockoll, what I can do with this lettuce leaf.”  He placed it partway into his nostril and snorted it so that it jetted away, out of sight.  He then stuck out his tongue.  There it was.  “Tah-dah,” he sang while most of the students got up to leave quickly, choking either from indigestion or laughter. I think Adam had a fixation with his nostrils.

One of the students was a very demure young lady named April.  She was reserved in most every way – except for her eating. I don’t know how to tell you this, but she was simply the most slovenly eater I have ever seen. She would finish lunch with soup stains all over her blouse.  Salad dressing dotted her clothes each day.  I don’t even want to get into what transpired whenever the school served spaghetti.  The worst, though, was ice cream.  Every day April bought ice cream and every day she would come into the post-lunch classroom, messy and giggling.  “I guess it melts faster’n I can eat it,” she’d say as every once-romantic potential fled to the far sides of the room.  My honest memory of April is never without seeing a long smear of a Mayfield chocolate/vanilla over the front of her.

I also laugh when I remember two energetic girls…

Karen and Jessica loved my class so much that even during other classes they would find an excuse to stop by, knock and say hello.  I am telling you the honest truth.  Totally ignorant of my growing stress at being interrupted, the two girls smiled their brace-filled grins at me,  innocently wanted to let me know they were thinking of me, even though I had taught them only two periods earlier.

One day before Thanksgiving break, Karen and Jessica decided to surprise me with a little fun entrance.  Having watched a detective drama the night before, these two eighth graders thought it would be a great idea to burst into my room, diving and pretending to be policemen busting up a gang meeting, waving their hands in little gun-like fashion as they slid across the floor. Yes, they planned to dive and slide.  This was bad enough in itself, but when Karen led by kicking open the door and leaping into a slide, she tripped over a chair that was left at the front of the room.  This caused her to slam into the second row’s empty desk, flipping it over and somehow landing on top of her.  I had my back to the door as I was teaching and was horribly startled at the tremendous crash I heard, only to find Karen tangled and whimpering under an upturned desk, and Jessica propped against the doorway laughing helplessly.  Karen ended up with a sprained wrist and both girls made a solemn promise to the principal to never to imitate Starsky and Hutch again.

In order to teach the classes how to give devotionals and Bible messages before a group, I “warm them up” with simple short speeches, one of which is in demonstrating how to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.  It’s an easy way to stand in front of an audience; the speaker explains each step in making the sandwich, and ends up taking a bite and grinning to the audience.  Every one excelled at it, but nervous Matthew made the greatest impression when he choked on the peanut butter.  His only relief was to cough it all up.  Right on the girl in the front row.  It took me the rest of the period to restore order.

Jason got so absorbed in our lesson on the book of Revelation that he chewed his pen right through the plastic.

Into the ink.

I looked up to see a blue-mouthed wild-eyed pupil waving frantically for permission to leave the room.  “May eye gouh tew the baffroom tew wasssh owt muh mouf?”  he asked. Biting my lip almost to the point of bleeding, I granted the exit visa to the would-be Smurf.

Joseph had an amazing imagination, often day-dreaming in class.  Oftentimes I would be tough with him, but his flights of fancy were so metaphysical that I was as intrigued with his reasons for dreaming as I was concerned for his concentration.  On a spring day, Joseph was absent from school to get an extensive ear exam, including medicinal drops.  The next day he sat in a daze, his eyes filled with wonderment.

I was exasperated.  “Joseph, what is the problem?  Why won’t you concentrate and look at the PowerPoint screen?”

His eyes were a mixture of shock and wonder.  “They gave me drops for my ears yesterday to help me hear better,” he explained slowly.  “And now I can hear planes taking off and landing at the airport.”  The airport was over twenty miles away.

To me, each day’s classroom beginning is like the first pitch in a baseball game.  You never know what the outcome will be by the time you leave the stadium.

I guess the best summation is found at the time when I was debating the class in a round of apologetics.  Things were highly charged and when Kristen started hyperventilating in trying to answer my charge she swallowed so much air that when she opened her mouth she let out a diesel-horn-like burp.   The room exploded in riotous laughter and I continually wiped my eyes.

“Boy, Doc Zock,” yelled Sean, “you sure do have fun in this class, don’t you?”

Indeed I do, my friend.

Thank you, Lord, for laughter in the classroom.

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