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The Night Our Starting Linebacker Got Humiliated in Front of a Crowd

February 27, 2014

We reviewed John 17 today in what is known as the Greatest Prayer in the Bible.  Jesus Himself lifts His face to Heaven and declares that ‘Now is the hour that the Father will be glorified.”  It’s a moving story that tells us that Jesus is not there to make manifest His miracles nor His great moral teaching.  He was going to the crucifixion n order to magnify the Father.

There was a time of reflection as each student considered the power of the statements in those opening verses.  As Jesus set about to do nothing else other than the Father’s will, what should they be doing today, in this era?   Ray nodded his head and took down notes.  Sheryl raised her hand. “I’m not exactly sure what manifest means.  Could you explain?”

“Certainly,” I said.  “It’s making something plain by showing it.  Jesus made God evident within Him by living the life that He did.”

“That’s not how a lot of Christians act, though,” said Zack.  “You know, Twitter and Facebook and stuff like that get in the way.”

He was spot on, and I wanted to enhance the point Zack just made.  I ran over to the coffee maker and grabbed the pitcher of water.  “You’re absolutely right, Zack,” I said, picking up the pitcher.  “It’s like God is trying to talk to you as I am right now, but this water in this pitcher represents the distractions of the world.” I started pouring water on the floor.  “Now, pay attention to what I am saying.  I am telling you…”  Every eye in the place went wide.

“We can’t,” laughed Matty, “not while you’re pouring water on the floor.”

Exactly,” I cried.  “And that’s what all of these social media distractions do.  Just as this water is not bad, those things are not bad in themselves, but if you stay fixated on them, you’ll find out they can become a bad distraction to your being able to show God in your lives, because you’re not paying attention to His leading.”

While giggling, the students were nodding.

“See?” I continued.  “That’s the goal of the Christian testimony.  We make Him known, not ourselves.  Pushing ourselves out in the forefront is not only misguided, it’s also dangerous.”

I took a step toward the students.  “And sometimes downright embarrassing.”

It brought back a significant memory.  One with an Aesop-like moral…

Terry was one of my students in Arizona who fit the mold of the type of pupil brings an inward groan to Bible teachers anywhere.  He was the model of the stereotypical class clown.  Well, no, I take that back –   he fancied himself the class clown, the cut-up, the life of the party.  You know the kind – the one who has the last inane comment in virtually every situation, causing more eye-rolling than actual laughter.  He had almost a manic desire to be noticed.  If there was a problem of a behavioral type, I could usually find Terry.  No, he didn’t give an in-your-face defiance; it was more like a prank that occurred behind your back.  I would usually find Terry present with a mock face of remorse.  It grew, as you know, thin very fast.

I took a dozen students out for a dinner one night at a fairly nice restaurant.  You guessed it – seventeen-year old Terry was throwing food, laughing obnoxiously and running to the restroom in mock-nausea antics.

On one of my Theology Camps, Terry snuck out one afternoon and threw rocks at expensive Koi fish where the proprietor told us he had personally overseen the raising of the fish in a small pond – they were valued at over $500 each.  Yes, Terry hit one (“I was only trying to see how close I could get to it”), stunning it and almost killing it.  In fact, for a fearful three hours, the fish lay mostly inert at the top of the water.  For those three hours Terry was the most repentant Christian you’d ever seen. When, however, the fish shook itself to life again, by the next day Terry was looking for another way to grab attention.

Snickering and strutting, Terry was a weekly visitor to the principal’s office.

1aHe eventually found his way on to the football field and became quite good.  In fact, he became the starting linebacker in a very competitive Arizona high school league. Rather than giving him a self discipline, though, this only served to enhance his braggadocio.

Which brings me to an activity night I held for my students.

I had a fun night of let-loose activities and some students from other schools attended as well.  We even had some young teens who were home-schooled attend this get-together, one of whom was an extremely bookwormish boy by the name of Jim.  Jim wore thick glasses and an old T-shirt and was around fourteen or so, if I can recall.  He was unusually quiet, but enjoyed the hot dogs and Coke immensely, constantly grinning and pushing his glasses back up the bridge of his nose.  He could not have weighed one hundred pounds soaking wet.

“And now, ladies and gentlemen,” I announced to the fifty teens present that I had formed into a circle, “we’re going to play ‘Change the Chair.’  It’s a brutal game of getting to a chair before the person in the middle stops you and claims your chair, so anyone who doesn’t want to play, well, why not stand at the side and watch a few rounds.”  About ten teens removed themselves and their chairs from the group, standing and grinning.  This was going to be fun.

“Now,” I said, “whenever I call something that applies to you, as in ‘you’re wearing sandals’, or ‘you have blonde hair’, you then must move and find another chair before the person in the middle gets to that empty chair.  Bunches of people will be leaving their chair and diving for another one, so you must be on your toes.  If it applies to you, must move when I call.  Understand?”

The teens nodded.  I looked over to my left.  Little Jim was sitting there grinning widely and nodding his head.

“Who wants to be in the middle?” I asked.

“I do!” shouted Terry, pushing out his chest and strolling to the middle. “I’ll take on anyone in here!  Call it!”

I started the game:  “If you have a white T-shirt on, move!”

Little Jim had a white T-shirt on and leaped to his feet, darting to an empty chair as other teens scrambled.  Terry saw Jim make his move. Typically, Terry wasn’t going to play by the rules; he wasn’t going for a chair.  He wanted to knock someone down.

Terry leaped for Jim’s back.   We all winced.  This wasn’t going to be pretty.

What happened shocked everyone in the room.

Simply put, little Jim decked Terry.

No way. This couldn’t be.  We collectively rubbed our eyes as we saw Terry flat on his back, dazed.  Little Jim sat in the chair, grinning and pushing his glasses back up on the bridge of his nose.  I am not really sure how he did it, but somehow Jim flipped Terry over the top of his shoulder and shrugged him off in one smooth move.  Terry was stunned.  So were we.

Someone started to giggle.

“Whoa, Terry, you got served,” shouted Courtney.  The place broke up in laughter.

Terry stood up, a tight grin on his face.  “Okay, okay.” He glared at little Jim.  “Call it.”

“You must move if you are a brunette,” I called.  That included Jim, I suddenly realized.  Worse yet, Terry realized it as well.  The moment Jim moved, Terry went flying at him.

Jim took the oncoming tackle, dropped to one knee and leveraged Terry right over his other shoulder and sent Terry flipping to the floor.  Wham!    This time the whole room erupted in hoots and hollers.  Jim sat quietly and looked up at me expectantly.  He was having the time of his life, barely breathing hard.

Terry picked himself up, red in the face.  “Call something having to do with him,” he stood right in front of Jim’s chair.  Jim looked up at me and nodded.  “Go ahead, it’s okay,” he said happily.

Reluctantly I called the next one.  “You  must move if you are wearing glasses. Go!”

Jim had hardly risen to his feet when Terry grabbed him in a bear hug, yanking him to the floor.  Jim sidestepped the bear hug, but Terry wasn’t letting this happen again – not a third time.  You could see in his eyes that he realized he was quickly losing all vestiges of self-centered fame he had so carefully built in the school over the past years.  He was desperate; I was watching a person fighting to salvage his persona he had so lovingly crafted.

But little Jim just wouldn’t cooperate.  He slipped and counter-attacked as teens cheered and whistled.  Jim had him in a leg-lock, but Terry had Jim in a headlock.  Both struggled and grunted.  Both faces grew beet red.  It was enough for me.

“Time, time,” I called, separating the two.  “Both were heaving mightily.  “And that’s the end of that game – everyone head to the ice cream buffet!”  Teens cheered and mobbed the tables.

“Hey, Jim” called Jeremy.  “Where did you learn those moves, little guy?”

“Oh,” said Jim, wiping his forehead.  “I kind of take a martial arts class in the afternoons.”  Jeremy patted him on the back.

I glanced over at Terry, sitting in the corner, trying to regain his breath and his ego.  He would never be the same.  We saw a different Terry in the classroom for the rest of the year.

… my mind came back to the classroom here in Tennessee.

“A good conclusion to this thought,” I said, “is that you can be humble for Christ.  Or you can be humbled.”

“I know.  I saw it first-hand.”

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