Dear God,

  1. Pop quiz!

Those words strike fear, dread, loathing, and a sense of suddenly becoming ill in the mind and body of every student.  Apparently every teacher learns these words in whatever military/teacher academy they all attended.  It’s the sort of, “Drop and give me twenty”, of the classroom.

There was often a transformation I could see in teachers.  Perhaps demon possession was involved.  I’ve seen otherwise very good and loving teachers use these words and suddenly they take on the appearance of the anti-Christ.  Their eyes glow red as I saw them throw back their heads (yes, that’s with an “s”) and laugh the evil laugh of a mad scientist, “Whahahahaha!”  I picture them breathlessly walking into the teachers’ lounge (which in my time in school was a place to go smoke and do whatever else teachers do in there: probably take odds on who will actually graduate) and laughing as they said, “You should see the look on their faces…especially Danny Herman!  Whahahahaha!”

     Even now at the age of nearly 60 I can feel my stomach hurt when I hear those words.  I suspect all my old teachers, now long since retired, still sit with their walkers or canes and tell their grandchildren, “I had fun when I taught, especially when I would throw in a ‘pop quiz.’  One student still comes to mind, Danny Herman.  You could actually smell the fear!”  (Insert above mentioned evil laugh.)  My therapist, whom I’ve had since high school, tells me I’ll get over it soon but to keep taking my meds.

So where’s this all going?  The other day I was strolling along through life, minding my own business.  In the middle of an otherwise uneventful day, which most days generally are, I went to the store for a pound of butter: the same butter which sometimes hides the gallon of milk in the fridge.  Coming down the aisle toward me I saw a woman who always needs attention.  Whether events in her life are worse than others I’m not really sure, but they seem to wear on her more heavily and she seems to love to or have a need to talk about them at great length.  I really didn’t have the emotion or time.

At first I tried to act as if I didn’t see her, casually glancing to see if she had noticed me.  I quickly assessed the situation and devised a plan to, rather absent absentmindedly of course, turn my cart around as if I forgot the four bags of chocolate chips I didn’t need.  But then I figured I’d just keep walking, say a brief “Hello. “How are you?”, and head for the butter aisle.

But then the pop quiz thing took over.  I could hear you.  “OK, Danny, Pop Quiz!  How are you going to handle this one in a loving manner?”  After saying hello I stood in the aisle and listened to the latest calamities in her life.  At the end she looked at me and asked, “So, how are you?” before promising to see me in church, which she almost never does, and going our separate ways.

I walked away rather frustrated with the latest pop quiz you gave me.  Like everyone else I like my life smooth and uninterrupted.  But then I realized most of life is a pop quiz.  Just when my life is going along smoothly something happens and I have the question of how I’ll respond to the test before me.

The pop quiz questions differ in severity; One person is frustrated their car doesn’t start; One is in fear of losing their job; Another has a child who has suddenly been struck with tragedy; Still another just found out they have cancer.  We can’t predict any of tests that come our way…all we can do is prepare ourselves, trust in you, and be as faithful and strong as possible when the quiz is before us.

The reason I was so terrified when hearing those words as a youngster is that I generally didn’t prepare.  As an adult I realize that the questions are bigger and more daunting and I realize that I need a lot of spiritual preparation to handle these questions.  It’s not just a matter of “reading chapter 3” anymore…these are spiritual battles which require spiritual strength.  I also realize that even on my best days I might not do well or walk away unscathed, but I will be better and stronger with preparation.

Help me to renew my spiritual discipline so I might meet the pop quizzes before me in a manner which you would be proud of.  Some of are difficult, but I know you will be there to help me.

As always, thanks for listening.  I love you.


Pastoral Ponderings…June 2015