There I was, dropping my baby girl off at school for her first day of kindergarten. She bounced out of the car, pulled on her Little Mermaid backpack, closed the car door, and disappeared through the front door of her elementary school.
Was I excited for our Sarah to start school? Sure. So was my husband.
We were also feeling a bit nervous, though. We had questions like: would Sarah find her classroom okay? Would she make good friends easily? Would her teacher be sweet and kind?
At orientation the week before, we had met Sarah’s teacher, I’ll just call her Mrs. X, and Mrs. X’s paraprofessional (parapro). They assured us that teachers and other staff members would be strategically placed in the hallways during the first few days of the new school year. That way, every student definitely would get to the right classroom.
During orientation, Mrs. X addressed the new group of parents and students in a calm way. She explained the routines of her classroom. She seemed competent and prepared.
As I drove away from school on that first day, having left my precious little girl in the care of people I didn’t really know, I replayed in my mind what Mrs. X said during orientation and I felt better.
“It’s going to be a good school year,” I thought. “Certainly seems like Sarah got a good teacher.”
Sarah did, indeed, find her way to her classroom every single day. She also made many good friends right away.
But, Sarah began coming home from school after only a few weeks, complaining that her teacher was grumpy. Sarah said Mrs. X had snapped at some kids who got off task. Mrs. X hardly ever smiled, according to Sarah.
I began to wonder: why would you teach kindergarten kids if you don’t truly love five-year-olds and all the cute things they say and do?
At orientation, I had signed up as a classroom volunteer to help with different activities. That was a good thing, I thought. I was going to check out this grumpy teacher for myself.
I helped out in Sarah’s classroom with learning centers and games. I worked a shift at the school’s fall festival. I ate lunch at least once a week in the school cafeteria with Sarah and her new friends. Every time I served at the school, I watched Mrs. X for signs of grumpiness. You know what? I found them.
By Halloween, I was complaining to my husband about Mrs. X.
By Christmas, I was complaining to other moms. Know what that’s called? Gossiping. Yep. And it’s a sin.
“They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil…” Romans 1:29-30.
That’s quite a list, isn’t it? And gossip made that list.
So, I was sinning by participating in conversations with other moms who had kids in Mrs. X’s class.
Know what else? I was judging Mrs. X in my heart. She was not the kindergarten teacher I expected for my daughter. Mrs. X was not sweet, kind, loving, warm, welcoming, smiling all the time, and she certainly didn’t seem happy to be there in the classroom with all those adorable children.
You ever read in the Bible where God said to be sure to judge other people? Yeah. Me neither.
In fact, God very specifically tells us NOT to judge others.
Matthew 7:1 says: “Do not judge, or you too will be judged.” According to Matthew, these were the exact words Jesus spoke.
Apparently, this was a lesson I had to learn the hard way.
Sarah didn’t really like Mrs. X, but did well in kindergarten, anyway.
After the school year ended, I was talking with a group of women one day at church. One of the women was also a teacher at the same elementary school Sarah was attending. This teacher mentioned that Mrs. X had started coming to our church. Great, I thought.
Then this teacher said something that startled me. She explained that Mrs. X had just been through a really rough school year because she’d had a baby right before school started. The baby had not slept through the night for most of the school year, meaning Mrs. X was exhausted–and was trying her best to stay awake to teach her kindergarten class.
In that moment, I felt God whisper to my heart:
“You judged her. You didn’t know what was going on in her life.”
I felt ashamed.
What if I had bothered to get to know Mrs. X, instead of judging her? What if I had found out about Mrs. X having a new baby early in Sarah’s kindergarten year? I could have organized the kindergarten parents to take meals to Mrs. X.
Instead, I chose to gossip and judge.
Several years went by. God finally blessed my husband and I with a second baby, our son, Joe.
He didn’t sleep through the night until he was three and a half years old. There were days I was so tired I stood in my kitchen, sobbing. After two years of not sleeping through the night, I told my family I didn’t want any presents for Christmas. I just wanted people to take turns watching Joe so I could take naps.
Did I think about Mrs. X sometimes? You bet.
I don’t know how Mrs. X managed to teach kindergarten to a classroom filled with kids all day, then go home and take care of her baby, getting up multiple times during the night. I couldn’t even keep up with what was for dinner each night.
Now, I just hope (and pray) I have learned my lesson about not judging others.
God put James 4:12 in front of me during a recent Bible Study:
“There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you–who are you to judge your neighbor?”
What if all of us who are Christians choose to remind ourselves every day that:
- There is a God–and we’re not Him. He, alone, has the right to judge.
- Every person we interact with is going through something. Let’s ask God to help us daily offer other people compassion, encouragement, and even a helping hand.