you ever want to test the limits of your patience, your sanity and
your ability to avoid bursting your gizzard from laughing out loud
at exactly the wrong momentin churchtry teaching a junior
high boys' Sunday school class sometime. You'll thank meor
hunt me down to kill memaybe both.
My parents started bringing me to church from the time my mother
thought I was just an annoying gas bubble, and they continued taking
me until the pains I caused went far beyond anything a dose of Mylanta
could relieve. So you might say Sunday school is in my bloodor
at least my bowels.
My wife and I have been teaching our three daughters' Sunday school
classes since they were in Kindergarten. In fact, I've been told
that teaching kids' Sunday school is my spiritual gift. But after
doing it for 18 years, I'm pretty sure it's a spiritual gag gift,
and God has enjoyed every minute of it.
When we taught elementary-age Sunday school, it was all crafts,
Bible stories, and sing-alongs. The main things I worried about
then were getting someone to the potty in time (including myself),
misplacing someone during a trip to the potty, or failing to memorize
the Bible verse of the week and being shown up by some seven-year-old
theological prodigy who could recite the Lord's Prayer in Aramaicon
the way to the potty.
But the real fun of teaching Sunday school to elementary-age kids
was getting them in a circle on the carpet for group prayer time,
when some of them took the opportunity to reveal their most embarrassing
family secrets. What started out as a solemn and reverent time of
sharing often transformed into a combination of "Dr. Phil," "Maury,"
and "Kids Say the Darndest Things." If, for example, someone prayed
for their Aunt Roxanne's impending fourth marriage to take place
in the county detention center visitor's area, all I could do to
maintain order was say a quick "Amen" and ask if anyone needed to
go to the potty. (Everyone always did.)
And speaking of the potty, I'm currently teaching a class of junior
high boys, which is like trying to discuss theology trapped in an
overcrowded zoo exhibit of agitated spider monkeys. Based on my
experience and careful study of classroom management techniques,
I've found that for adolescent male children, a generous supply
of Little Debbie Treats and Jolly Ranchers provides an effective,
short-term source of positive reinforcement-also known as bribery.
But sometimes, even the persuasive qualities of high fructose corn
syrup can't calm the onslaught of pubescent doofusness. In fact,
during a recent Sunday morning small-group lesson, I asked the boys
to give me an example of how believers can offer acceptable praise
to the Lord. One of my "regulars" responded by lifting his right
hip and releasing a thunderous blast that ricocheted off of the
hard-plastic chair and reverberated throughout the cavernous church
youth building. All I could think to do was say a quick "Amen" and
ask if anyone needed to go to the potty. (Everyone did.)
Moments like these only strengthen my firm belief that God has a
keen sense of humor. How else can you explain ear, nose and back
hair? It also reminds me that one time long ago, I, too, was a junior
high goober tormenting my longsuffering Sunday school teachers with
uncontrollable giggling when they read any Bible verse containing
the word "loins."
I guess it's true that "what goes around comes around," and lots
of problems can still be solved with a quick trip to the potty.