My grandson Bradyn is in the first grade. I remember picking him up from school one day during the first week of classes when he said: "Grandad, you know what?" "What son?" I replied. He said: "First grade ain't no joke!" Ha! I know what he was thinking!
In kindergarten he learned a lot, but the schedule was not as full and the classroom rules while being introduced and learned, were not as strictly enforced and the consequences of breaking those rules were much more lenient than first grade. In the first grade, Bradyn and his classmates are learning that not everything revolves around them as an individual, and that rules are established and enforced not only for their benefit, but for the benefit of the group as a whole.
Before I left for the Middle East in Oct, my daughter told me that Bradyn had been getting bad marks for his conduct in class, not for bad behavior, but for talking when he was not supposed to be talking. His grades were also slipping because while he was busy talking, he could not listen to his teacher's instructions and was not completing his work as instructed.
I had a long talk with Bradyn about his grades, but especially about his conduct grade. Not everybody can learn and make all A's, but everybody can be respectful and obedient! I even wrote a note to his teacher giving her permission to discipline him as needed if he did not listen to her and then also to call me so that I could do the same, before having him publically apologize to her and to the class. Well, this worked for a while, almost the whole month I was gone.
However; after I had been home for about 5 days, I had to make a Wednesday-Sunday trip attending cattle sales in TN and KY. Since I had not seen the boys for so long, I wanted them to go with me, but they would have to miss three days of school to do so. Bryant, the oldest who is in the second grade, had missed a couple of days because he had been sick, so that ruled him out. When I asked their mama how Bradyn had been in school, she told me that during the last week, he had again gotten into the same troubles as before and that his teacher said we needed to have another talk.
That night I talked with Bradyn again about his conduct and how his bad conduct reflected badly not only on himself, but also on his mama and daddy and all his family, including me. I told him that since we were best friends and partners, I had to be able to count on him to do the right thing even when I was not there and that I expected a lot out of him because I knew he was a good and smart boy—but mostly because we were partners and because we wanted to live our lives to please Jesus and make Him look good. I told him that he was a leader with a lot of potential, that God had a great plan for his life, etc.., and how it hurt me to see him not live up to his potential, not only because of the influence it had on him personally, but also because of the influence it had on others.
It was sort of a good cop/bad cop talk where I tore him down a little bit and then built him back up bigger than he realized he was—a lesson that I learned from one of my mentors, friend and former high school Principal, Coach Thad Morgan. Coach Morgan caught me in high school one day kissing a girl on a day when he just happened to be taking a group of visitors on a tour of the campus. He just happened to open a door when I was giving her a kiss. I vividly remember him getting face to face with me telling me to get my butt to his office and to stay there until he got there. He also told the girl to go with me. We sat there for what seemed like hours. When he came marching in, he said: "Young lady you get yourself back to class." That seemed easy enough, so I too started to get up when he pointed his finger at me, tilted his head like he does when he means business, and told me to have a seat!
Well, to make a long story short, he lectured me for a while about how there was a time and place for everything and how school was no place for that kind of activity, etc., and told me a little more about the subject than I knew previously and how one thing leads to another in such situations. He told me that he was surprised and that I had let him down by not living up my reputation and to the goals and standards of our faculty and student body. I have to admit that at that point I felt pretty small and disappointed in myself.
But then, about the time I was feeling like dirt, he started rebuilding my self-image and building my character by telling me how I was a leader in our school. He said he and everyone else looked up to me and that he and they expected a lot from me. He told me about all the potential I had as an individual and all the influence that I had on others. He told me that people were looking at me and were going to follow me whether I was a good example or a bad one, so it was critically important that I be a good example for others to follow. He told me that I had a lot of responsibility for the lives of others and in the reputation and character of the institution. All these things he was telling me to build me back up were things that I did not see in myself, but by the time he was finished, I sure did not want to let him down! He ripped me good, but was careful and spent a lot more time to build me back up in a way that helped to change my life and taught me lessons that I have never forgotten. This encounter impacted the way I have lived my life and treated others for the 40 years since!
This was the kind of influence I was trying to have on Bradyn in our conversations. After we talked, I told him that I had planned to let him stay out of school for three days to go to TN and KY with me, but since he had not done what I had asked, he could not go. If he could not be respectful and obedient in class, he could not miss class to go with me. I will never forget his face and the huge tears in his eyes when he looked at me and said: "But you didn't tell me!"
Well, I had told him several times. What I had not told him was that if he was good I would take him with me. I just told him the importance of being respectful and obedient at all times, whether or not there was any strings attached or anything in it for himself. When he said "but you didn't tell me", he was saying but you didn't tell me there were immediate consequences for this wrong—especially missing the opportunity to go on the road with me and stay in hotel rooms!
How many of us make decisions and live our lives with this kind of thinking? If there are immediate benefits, or if there is a high probability that we will get caught, we will do what is right. But, if there are no immediate consequences and/or if we think we are not likely to get caught, we will just do what we want to do to achieve whatever benefits we are seeking, without regard to the effects on others or what the Word of God tells us about the issue.
Jesus has told us that He is coming again, this time to judge the world. Acts 17:30-31 says: "The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead."
Jesus is coming again! He has called us to faith and repentance where He is the Lord of our life. In America, we have free access to the Gospel message and the Word of God. Saying: "But you didn't tell me" will not be acceptable!