Since last Sunday was Mother’s Day, I told a story about my own Mother, Mary Butts. Here’s the story:
I wasn’t the studious sort of student growing up in school. I didn’t do well academically at all. My parents made me repeat the sixth grade to see if that would help. It didn’t. In the seventh grade I had to do a bunch of testing and get a lot of tutoring to help with my math and reading comprehension. It didn’t help either. By the eighth grade I was placed into remedial reading and math classes in the special education department.
So I was in a remedial reading class on Monday’s, Wednesday’s and Friday’s and in my regular reading class on Tuesday’s and Thursday’s. Back then being a part of a special education class came with an unwanted stigma of be retarded. I know that word is not very PC but that was how we thought of special education classes when I was growing up in school. Consequently, I didn’t want my peers to know I was in one of those classes. My eighth grade teacher, who was just a mean teacher, had other plans.
It was a Thursday and my teacher was passing back the tests that were taken on the Tuesday before. She handed back all the tests to every student, every student except me. Instead of handing me my test, my teacher called me to the front of the room. Once I was standing in the front of the room, my teacher told the class that I was the only person to get an “F” on the test. But it’s what she said next that… Well, she said to the class, “Rex can’t help it. He’s retarded and that’s why he’s been placed in the retarded class on Monday’s, Wednesday’s, and Friday’s.”
Needless to say, that was a humiliating experience. The other students laughed while I ran out of class. I never wanted to go back. I hated school. I hated every bit of it and told my parents that I wouldn’t ever go back. Obviously I did but something else happened that turned this terrible story something beautiful.
I went to bed that night pretty angry but that next morning when I woke up there was a letter on my bed from my mom. I don’t have the letter any more but I really wish I did. I remember the gist of what it said. In it my mother told me how proud she was to call me her son and then she listed off a hundred reasons why she was proud of me.*
I’ve often wondered how long it would take to write out a hundred reasons why I’m proud of my own children. What I can tell you is that growing up, there were a lot of questions I had but one question I never had was the question of whether my mom loved me. I knew my mom loved me not just because she told me so but because of what she did, such as what she did in the story told above.
The is what the scripture says in 1 John 4:9, “This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.” The scripture doesn’t just tell us that God loves us, it tells us what God did. God sent his only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, to give us life and that is why we can know that God loves us.
I shared this story with the Columbia Church of Christ this past Sunday as part of my message “Christianity 101” from 1 John 4:7-18. I’ve uploaded that message here, if you are interested in listening to it.