“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” ~Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)
Circa 1990. Report Card Day…this was a National Holiday for some and a National Day of Mourning for others. For me, it was the latter. I was not always the best student, not because I couldn’t be but because I didn’t try. “Potential” was my middle name. At parent/teacher conferences, my teachers always told my parents that I had so much potential and that if I would just develop it and use it, I would one day do great things. As I look back on those days of yesterday, I have come to my own conclusions. It wasn’t about living up to my potential. I was just lazy, plain and simple.
That laziness reared its ugly head my 9th grade year. When report cards came out at the end of the school day, my hands were sweaty and trembling as I unfolded the card and quickly scanned my grades. There it sat…a 59/F in P.E.! Yes, you heard me right! I made an F in Physical Education. Now, you must be wondering…how in the world does someone FAIL P.E.? Well, I’ll tell you how…you don’t dress out for weeks because you don’t “feel like it.” Lazy with a capital “L.” My heart sunk when I saw the F. This shouldn’t have come as a complete surprise as I knew what the consequences would be. Yet, I erred on the side of miracles, hoping that Coach Brenda Mayes would have an ounce of sympathy. Nope. Nada. Zilch. I got what I had earned, and now I had to face the wrath of my father.
Because my father worked the late shift, he wouldn’t actually get home until after midnight. I had already shown my mother the report card, and she was disappointed, but I knew this disappointment would be nowhere close to my father’s anger. That night, as instructed, I left my report card on the kitchen table for my dad to see. I went to bed praying that he would not be mad at me.
The next morning, my father watched as I walked into the kitchen for breakfast. A lump formed in my throat as he looked at me and said in a deep, commanding tone, “Have a seat.” I’m dead meat! I thought to myself. As I braced myself for the stern talking to, I was surprised at what came out of his mouth next. Instead of yelling at me, he did the unexpected. He encouraged me. That’s right…you heard me correctly! He encouraged me. I was stunned. I even questioned his parenting…. “You mean you’re not going to fuss at me, to punish me, to take away all the things I love?” He shook his head. “No,” he said calmly. “I want you to know something. I believe in you. I know that God has something special in store for you because only someone bold and courageous would EVER do what it takes to fail P.E. So, I’m not going to fuss at you. Instead, I’m going to encourage you to use the gifts of courage and boldness for God’s glory. He will honor that.”
I walked away from that conversation with ambivalence. I felt bad for making the F but I felt even worse knowing that I had obviously disappointed my father and yet, instead of scolding me, he encouraged me. I can’t explain how that one incident changed my entire mindset, but it did. Now, I felt like I had to prove to him that he was right. I am somebody. I am fearfully and wonderfully made, and God had a purpose and a plan for me.
Just a year later, my father passed away from lung cancer. But, I will never forget the huge grin on his face when I shared my last report card with him before he passed away. I had made all A’s. And his words… “Right on! Right on!” will be forever etched into my memory. I had made my father proud, and it all started with a tiny seed of encouragement.
I share this story to encourage you to do the same.
Teachable moments are all around us, and if given the opportunity, taking advantage of those moments may impact someone for a lifetime. We are commanded in Hebrews 3:13 to “encourage one another daily.” I am thankful that I work at a school where our teachers encourage their students and remind them that they, too, are fearfully and wonderfully made. God has a plan for them, and praise Jesus, one day we will see that plan come to fruition.
Thank you, Shoals Christian parents, for entrusting your children with us. Please continue to lift us up, to pray for us, as we carry out the Great Commission.
Felicia Jones, Head of School