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The Time I Got Suspended. And I Was a Teacher.

March 21, 2014

Do not cause anyone to stumble… I am not seeking my own good, but the good of many, so that they might be saved.  Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.

Paul’s words are direct and unequivocal to the Christian, aren’t they?  The Believer’s life is adventurous, joyous, and at times even mysterious – and that’s the great part.  However, it’s also responsible … and that can be laborious at times, can’t it?

I mean, look at the last ten letters of Paul’s quote. Come on, really look at it:  Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.

That’s pretty serious.  We’ve got to be a role model.  I must be an example.

I’m a Bible teacher.  Students look to see whether I live the faith of my classroom instruction.  They’re observing me to see whether the Jesus I teach is truly the Jesus I live.

And oh, how well I remember the time I totally messed this up.

Let me start my story by explaining that our high school football team was not anything like our current team.  Our recent teams have walloped opponents on a regular basis, and we make the Tennessee state playoffs routinely.  Our GCA Rams have been ranked highly in the state ever since I returned to resume Bible teaching on our campus five years ago.

Our football team used to be bad.  No, worse than bad.  We were terrible. No, we stunk.  In those days I was not the only adult who wondered why we ever organized a football team in the first place.  We were the delight of the high school football conference – everyone wanted to play us.  If my memory serves imageme correctly, we lost by an average of forty points one season.  It wasn’t until halfway through that schedule until we scored our first touchdown.  On one occasion we kicked off and the opponent’s receiver fumbled the ball on the 18 yard line as our boys ganged up and grabbed him – at least three guys had their hands on his jersey.  He calmly shook them off and ran over 80 yards for a touchdown. We were that bad.

We lost every game that season.  We were losing every game the next season as well.  I think we were on a streak of fifteen straight losses at the time.

I was loyal, though.  I attended every game, home or away.  I gamely tried to encourage the troops.  At the time, I was overseeing the chapel program at the school, and each week I opened up our meetings by trying to rally the troops.  “Perhaps this week…”

And then our break came.  We had been able to schedule a team from another state – I’ll call them ‘Briarcliff’ –  who heartily agreed to bring their non-starters and scrubs to take us on in order to get their second and third-stringers a chance to get playing time.  For some reason, their state would see it as a pre-season ‘practice’ game and not count against them, but we could count it in our regular season record.  This indeed would be a scheduled game that would count in the standings for us – and against their second and even third string, yet!  Perhaps the losses would stop.  Our campus was abuzz with excitement, and that Friday night we piled into the stadium, ready to make some noise.  A student handed me a megaphone.  I gamely took it and started leading the student section in cheers.  This was our time…

But something happened beforehand.

Briarcliff’s coach had been getting numerous friendly calls from other local area high school  coaches throughout the week, teasing him about the fact that Briarcliff would forever go down in history as Grace Christian Academy’s first win in football.  His team was to travel to Tennessee and walk into the legend books, they said, as GCA’s first pigskin win ever.  What would it feel like to be remembered for that?

So Briarcliff’s coach made a change that we didn’t know until they got on the field.  He broke his gentleman’s agreement and sent his starters.

We knew something was amiss after the kickoff when we saw their players zip down the field with uncanny athleticism and dump our player back near the goal line.  After three downs of brutal defense, we heard some of their fans mentioning the ‘secret’ of sending the starters in order to mop up GCA.

I started to get angry.

When they went on offense, their quarterback shook off defenders like flies and ran 75 yards for a touchdown.

I was mad.

But as he coasted into the end zone, he looked up and made an obscene gesture to our fans.

That was when I took action.

Grabbing the megaphone, I marched down to the fence and became a one-man wrecking crew of insults and barbs at their side.  I walked up and down the sidelines, shouting and mocking.  I took heckling to an art that night.  The wonderful thing about a megaphone, even in its primitive non-electronic state, is that it can direct a voice across a country mile.  Their players heard me clearly.  They were looking up and reacting to my catcalls.

“Hey, number twenty-five, you gotta problem with learning how to play?  What do they teach you up in that state where you come from?”

“Quarterback!  You!  Yeah, you number eight.  Look at me when I’m talking to you, son!  You like making dirty gestures to families?  You ever learn any manners?” 

“Whoa, running back number eighteen!  Not such a great runner now, aren’t you!  Where’d you learn how to walk? You’re an embarrassment, son.  Go sit on the bench and think about your future…”

“Hey, quarterback, number eight!  So how’d you like that QB sack?  Did the ground taste good?  Not such a big man with obscene gestures any more, are you?”

And on and on…

They piled on the points.  I piled on the heckling.  At the half they were leading by twenty-nine points. I threw down the megaphone in the third quarter and walked out of the stadium.  I was disgusted, but a bit vindicated.  I never got profane, but I do admit I got pretty creative with my comments and insults.   I felt that I ragged on the other players until I got it out of my system, so I headed home and enjoyed the weekend.

On Monday as I went to the school office to pick up my gradebook, the principal stopped me.

“Brad, I wasn’t at the game, but you were, weren’t you?”

“Yessir, I sure was…”

“Well,” he said as he sifted through his mail.  “We got a call from Briarcliff’s coaching staff and a few of Briarcliff’s parents stating that there was a heckler of some sorts, an older man who was agitating the players to no end.  He had a megaphone and would walk up and down the sidelines throughout the game, insulting them on every play…”

My heart stopped.  I started to realize what I had done.  We were a Christian school.  They weren’t.  We had a testimony to uphold.  And I, a Bible teacher and the chaplain of the school, personally brought damage to our institution.

I swallowed.  “Ah… it was me, sir.”

He looked up.  “What?  Really?”

I looked away.  “Yes.  That was me, upset over the game.”

He wasn’t sure what to say.  “Wow,” he finally said.  “Look, I’m not going to discipline you or anything like that, but…” He searched for words.

I was deeply sorrowful.  How many of my students saw me acting like a lunatic out there?

“No, I’m in need of discipline,” I responded.

He shrugged his shoulders.  “Look, it wasn’t that bad.  After all, they won the game.  I talked with their principal and it’s okay.  I just wanted to know.  Consider it over.”

I shook my head.  “But I can’t.  Look, it was bad, at least to me, I can see that now.  I need to make this right…”

I was mortified.  I could hardly look any of the students in the face.

In chapel that morning I approached the podium and faced the student body and staff in my usual opening comments before I introduced the speaker.

“Students, I have something I want to tell you,” I said.  “On Friday night I felt that we had been cheated in that game, and that our boys were the victims of dishonesty by the Briarcliff coach – you all know what I’m talking about, because I know you heard what the other folks in the bleachers were saying.

“But that doesn’t justify what I did.  I lost my temper, students.  Funny thing with me, is that when I lose my temper it takes a while to find it.  I may have lost it in the stands, I may have lost in next to the concession booth, but I did indeed lose it.”

A ripple of laughter came from the students.

“But when I lost it I also lost my Christian testimony.  When I lost it I also hurt my friendship with Jesus Christ – and I lost the evidence of my friendship with Him to all who were watching, I might add.

“What I did was wrong.  Very wrong.  I make no excuse. I let my emotions take a sinful turn and take over my actions.  I offer you no excuse, but I do humbly ask your forgiveness.  I am disgusted with myself.”

Some of the students nodded in understanding.

“And something is going to be done about it,” I continued.  “I am suspending myself.”

Eyebrows raised throughout the audience.

“I am assessing myself a two-game suspension,” I said.  “One home game and one away game.  I am to sit at home and think about the damage my actions did to Briarcliff, to you the students, to the parents on both sides, and to my friendship with my Lord. Again, I offer you the most sincere apology.”

I started serving my suspension that very week.  I stayed at home and stared at the fireplace, wondering how deeply my idiotic actions affected people who did not know Christ.  I was deeply sorrowful back then.  I am still sad for what I did, even to this day.

Jesus has forgiven me, thankfully. I now watch over my temper in order to please my risen Savior – not because of a legalistic desire to earn credits for Heaven, but because that anger is not me.  It’s a power that overtakes me and I will not, I cannot let it become who I am.  I am a child of the King and I want to be the right example to my students.  Even if I have to give myself another suspension.

Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.

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  1. I so appreciate your taking ownership and responsibility for those actions. I hope that example of how to respond when we realize what we’ve done stays with the students so they can remember it when they need to so the same, as we all do at times.

  2. Thank you, Barbara. I had heard numerous celebrities using the old “if I offended anyone, I’m sorry” cop-out. I truly KNEW I offended people and I had to accept my actions as terribly wrong.

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