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The time a high school senior actually played with raw sewage.

February 7, 2018

7The whole bunkhouse was deathly quiet.  The bus was out in the parking lot, idling.  The girls had piled their stuff aboard and were all in seats, quietly awaiting the young men to bring out their gear and head back to the school after the Senior Retreat.

But nobody in the guys’ dorms moved an inch.

The director of the camp was enraged and the Christian school’s English teacher was livid.  The teacher stomped among the senior high boys and flailed his arms.  “I want the name of the boy who did this and I want it now or we are not leaving this camp!”  The director stood there with his arms crossed, glaring.  The English teacher’s voice raised another octave.  He was almost screaming. “Did you hear me?  Nobody is moving until someone confesses!”

The boys looked at each other, unsure of what to do next.  The bus was already behind schedule.  The young men were genuinely confused.

Except, may I say, for one young man.  Seventeen year-old “Jimmy” knew.  He also knew his prank had gone further than he had thought.  Much, much further.

While the students were having their after-morning Bible devotional in the dining hall, Jimmy crept back to the dorm and – this is going to be gross, but I’m going to tell you exactly what happened because I was there – decided to have a little fun in the toilet stall.  I am going to choose my words carefully.

Using toilet paper, he smeared pictures over the inside of one wall of a bathroom stall… with human waste.  Large, wide drawings using an abundance of excrement. I think you get the picture, and I am not going to elaborate.

Jimmy then sidled back into the dining hall with a snicker and the assumption that the janitorial staff would not discover the sewage mess until long after we were on the highway heading back to town.

However, the head of maintenance did a quick spot-check before the boys were to load the bus.  He found it.

I know Jimmy was not thinking at all.  Like many of us when we were that age, we cooked up a prank without fully realizing the magnitude of the results it would bring.  However, this small “gotcha” stunt was know known by fully half of the camp already and it seemed that the word had been leaked onto the bus, so some girls now knew.

Except nobody knew who did it, and this boy was not one to be known for such behavior.  I would only find out his name much, much later, and even then only from the faculty.  Believe it or not, Jimmy was pretty shy.  If this boy were to be exposed, his humiliation would be crushing.  But here he was, within minutes of being caught.  He had not mentioned the prank to any other guys, and they honestly didn’t know who did it.  And if he were to confess, and the girls found out that it was he who did such a repulsive thing?  Yes, he was in a panicked situation.

The English teacher now had some other teachers nearby, and his rage increased.  “Nobody leaves this room until one of you confesses who did it!  Do you hear me?” He had lost his objectivity, and clearly his composure.  The scene was very, very ugly.

The smallish school Chemistry teacher walked in while the boys shuffled to one side of the room to confer with one another.  “What is the problem?” he quietly asked the English teacher.  The whole mess was explained to him.  “And the problem is, ” huffed the English teacher, “is that we’re already a half an hour late getting back to the school, and nobody will confess.”

The chemistry teacher leaned in and looked at the disgusting, smelly stall.  “So the real problem is who will clean up this mess?”

Yes,” seethed the English teacher, stomping out of the room and into the yard to gather his wits and calm down a bit.

When he came back in, he was stunned to see the Chemistry teacher in the stall.

The small man was quietly cleaning the smeary feces off of the wall.

“What are you doing?” asked the English teacher incredulously.

“Well,” said the Chemistry teacher, juggling paper towels and Lysol, “the real problem is this mess on the wall.  I thought I would take care of the problem.”  Without any other words, he cleaned up the excrement, spray-disinfected the wall, washed his hands, and quietly motioned the boys to pick up their gear and get on the bus.

He never asked for the name of the culprit.  I was told that Jimmy sidled alongside him later on the day and breathed a quiet but heartfelt “thank you.”

The Chemistry teacher taught me an amazing lesson on humility and kindness.

After all, don’t humility and kindness go together?

My latest readings of Jesus are on His goodness, kindness and love.  I love this and teach this fascinating truth in my Bible classes.  I try – really, truly try – to get my students to see His goodness and His pathway to the Kingdom of Heaven.

Many get it.

Many do not.

One of the main reasons they do not is because they, unlike the Chemistry teacher, do not understand the humility needed to move forward.  Some delight in self-righteousness.  Others love the electronic stage of social media for their spiritual contentment.  In order to learn of Christ, submit to Him and let Him lead, they must get themselves out of the way.  Pride is one of the main roadblocks.

My reading in the fifth chapter of the book of John brings out a terrific question from the mouth of Jesus Himself:  “How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and you do not seek the glory that is from the one and only God?”

It’s a question that is as brutally relevant today as it was in the first century:

“How can you start to believe Me when you won’t even look at me – because you keep looking at yourself?”

“How can you listen to Me when you keep listening to the pitch and quality of the sound of your own voice?”

“How will you be able to look and understand Me when you continue with sidelong glances to other people for approval and praise for yourself?”

We keep getting in our own way.

I like how the Bible scholar Albert Barnes reflects on this passage: 
“A child cannot open a trunk when he gets on the lid and attempts to raise his own weight and the cover of the trunk too.”

It’s true – we cannot rise the lid of the trunk and discover the Truth when we have the weight of our own self-glorification on top of the lid.  We end up looking like a cartoon figure, trying to do the impossible.

Maybe it’s time we got off of the trunk.  Maybe it’s time we stopped listening to our own echo.


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