When I was in the third grade, I adored everything about school. I was the type of kid who enjoyed taking tests. I often wound up being my teacher’s helper, sorting papers, running errands, being “in charge” when she had to go use the bathroom, and generally being that obnoxious teacher’s pet that everyone talks about. But, I didn’t even care. I loved everything about the third grade.
In the winter of that year, it actually got cold in Texas, and we started having our recess in the gym instead of on the playground. I still remember the feeling of being set free in that huge room. We would all literally start screaming as soon as we ran on the floor, and we didn’t quit screaming until the teachers made us line up go to back to class.
One day during our regular gym recess scream-fest, I decided that I wanted to jump rope. Unfortunately, all the jump ropes were in use at that moment in time, so I ran over to the corner where I had tossed my peach-colored winter coat, the one that I felt looked so nice with my orange Orphan Annie haircut. In a moment of misguided innovation, I took a sleeve in each hand and proceeded to turn my coat into a makeshift jump rope. One! I counted aloud as one does while jumping rope. Two! And, just as Three! was about to leave my almost certainly chapped lips, I felt myself tipping forward, hands still clinging helplessly to the peachy sleeves as I brilliantly tripped myself with my coat and landed directly on my pointy little chin on that old gym floor.
I can still hear how that thud sounded inside my head.
All I knew was that it hurt. I got up quickly and ran straight to my teacher, and when she saw me coming her eyes grew bigger and bigger. She looked pale. When I finally crossed the final distance between us, she instinctively held out the coffee cup that was in her hand and stuck it under my chin to catch the blood.
They called my mother. I remember getting the stitches. The next day I went back to school with an oversized bandaid covering my wound. And, to this day, I bear the scar of one of the stupidest plans I ever concocted. From that day on, I waited patiently for jump ropes at recess. I learned that it’s better to wait on the real thing that to try to contrive an inferior version, especially if the inferior version is a peach coat that is nothing more than a tripping machine.
With jump ropes, I learned my lesson. But, with God I am still such a slow learner. I want the good stuff now. I want the blessing. The maturity. I want the influence. I want to do great things for God. I want to be good at stuff. I want to want what He wants instead of what I want. But, instead of just being patient, instead of waiting for God to do what He wills in me, I just forge on ahead with the inferior version of myself. I try to do everything that I can with what little (okay, non-existent) power that I have, and I just hope that God will bless it all. Oh, but if I would just wait a little. If I would stand back and remove my pride and my misguided desire for my own glory, there is just no telling what He would do.
But, here I am, tripping myself instead.
I guess it’s true that in many ways who you are in third grade is just who you are. But, with God, I don’t have to go on tripping my way through everything. The days of jumping the coat are over. I’m all about God’s jump rope in 2016. And, I pray that the scars that come from trying to do things my own way will serve as good reminders that the middle of God’s plan is the safest spot to be in this great, screaming gym that we call life. I don’t want to trip anymore.
‘Cause the older you get, the bigger the thud.