Wednesday, February 8, 2012


"Emily, sit over here! Emily, come NOW! OK, I'm going to count to three. One, Two..."

With a stern look and an authoritative voice, Tessa was an imposing figure. And little Emily seemed to have no alternative but to scurry over and plop down in the spot under Tessa's jabbing finger.

But there was something wrong with this picture. Tessa is only five years old.

I had been called in that morning to be a substitute teacher for the kindergarten class, but it didn't take me long to realize that Tessa thought SHE was the teacher.

In the morning as I gave instructions for the reading activity, Tessa stood up and started directing her classmates, "OK, everybody - put your pencils down and be quiet!" In line for the bathroom after lunch, she jumped in the middle of an argument and started telling both sides to apologize. And marching up to me at recess on the playground in the afternoon, she announced, "You need to put Jeffrey and Thomas in time out. They were fighting."

But Emily was her particular target. Maybe it was because they sat across from each other at the same table in the classroom, or maybe it was just because Emily would follow Tessa's commands even when no one else did. After the other teacher and I had specifically told the students that they could color their snowman paper any color they wanted to, Tessa took it upon herself to guide Emily step-by-step through their "free coloring" activity.

"OK, Emily, first get your pink crayon. No, not the dark pink. The light pink. OK, now color the stripe on the mittens pink. Don't color outside the lines! Good. Now get your purple crayon..."

All day long, I reminded Tessa, "You're not the teacher. I'm the teacher. I can handle it. I've got it under control." But apparently, Tessa didn't trust my abilities and felt that the kindergarten classroom would be run better if she were in charge, or at least helping police her fellow students and keep them in line.

What is it about this whole thing that bothers me so much? I reflected as I drove home at the end of the day. The light at the stoplight turned green and I moved on with the flow of traffic. And I realized that in five-year-old fireball Tessa, I saw a bit of myself. Though I may not always verbalize it, I often feel that I could do a much better job leading than whoever is in charge.

"OK, everybody, this is what we're going to do." I see myself as a little girl with pigtails, standing up on a chair, barking out commands to anyone within earshot. "Listen to me, everyone. I know best!" If people would only listen to my wisdom. If everyone would only follow my advice. If I were in charge of everything, the world would be a better place.

I even try to take over God's job sometimes. I seem to think I can handle things better than He can.

But eventually, like Tessa, I have to be firmly but lovingly put back in my place. "You're not in charge," I imagine my heavenly Father telling me, trying to hide a smile. "I'm in charge. I can handle it. I've got it under control."

And, like Job, I put my hand over my mouth.