a thousand apologies, friend, if you are one of the few who read this essay the first time i posted it, but i have nothing new gurgling at the moment and this is a great (if humiliating) story that bears repeating. enjoy.
i carry around in my body a scar–the result of a searing childhood memory that i share with you, dear reader, as a graphic illustration of grace.
my third-grade teacher, ms. hitt, was a retired navy captain and, frankly, that is description enough. she was military in her bearing and authoritative (terrifyingly so, to a third-grader) in her expression. now that i think about it, she was not “miss” or “missus,” but “mizz” hitt in a day before categorical labels were taboo. too, ms. hitt was huge. i’m talking goliath’s mother. she wore shapeless, floweredy, tent-like garments that seemed to emphasize her pervasive presence. my memory might be skewed by an adolescent perspective but in my mind, ms. hitt was one imposing woman.
strangely, ms. hitt was also very gentle. in stark contrast to her forbidding demeanor, ms. hitt obviously loved teaching and genuinely cared for us. she chose me as her pet (my buddy gets preferential treatment from the young, hot teacher and i get chosen by tyrannosaurus rex). she taught me to play chess. i would stay after school, we would play for a while, and she would carefully place the board on a high shelf so it would remain unmolested until the next time we could play (like kramer and newman and their ongoing game of risk).
on the fateful day of my life-changing episode, ms. hitt was teaching about the speed of light (how is it that i can remember this moment from my childhood, yet forget my wedding anniversary?). as the class was coming to a close, i was overtaken by an urge to urinate. i was watching the big clock on the wall from my front-row seat as the seconds dragged and my bladder ballooned. just when i thought i was going to make it, ms. hitt commanded me to go to the front of the room and write the speed of light on the chalk board (186,000 miles per second…it’s burned into my consciousness). keeping my legs squeezed tightly together, i hobbled to the board, completed my assignment, laid the chalk back in the tray, and started back for my desk. to my profound horror, ms. hitt put her hand on my chest, keeping me standing in front of the class, while she issued forth with her lesson. i squeezed my eyes shut, held my breath, prayed for the rapture…and peed my pants in front of my tittering classmates. ms. hitt, seeing what had happened, reacted immediately. she stepped in front of me, glared at the roomful of kids, and the place fell silent. this precious lady reached behind her, pressed me into her pillowy hinderparts, and walked me down the aisle, out of the class, and around the corner to the office where i called my mom to bring me fresh jeans. hey, perhaps all my shortcomings can be traced to and blamed on this traumatic moment.
in his letter to the hebrews, paul said we would someday all stand “uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account” (hebrews 4:13). when we really stop and consider that eventuality, the only emotion one can anticipate is unmitigated terror. who can qualify? who can stand before almighty god?
our only hope is expressed in colossians 3:3, ”For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.” just as ms. hitt became my advocate that day and shielded me from the mockery and condemnation of my classmates, jesus became my savior on the cross. on the day of my judgment, a righteous god will not see me in my wretched, insipid state–he will see me through the filter of the one who knew no sin–his righteous son. i am “hidden” in jesus.
thank you, ms. hitt, for your courage and for teaching me about grace (as if a hundred-year old ex-navy officer/teacher is sitting in a nursing home somewhere reading my blog).