God Is Not Mrs. Jackson

Psalm 103:7–18 (NIV84)

7He made known his ways to Moses, his deeds to the people of Israel:8The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.9He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever;10he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities.11For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him;12as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.13As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him;14for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust.15As for man, his days are like grass, he flourishes like a flower of the field;16the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more.17But from everlasting to everlasting the Lord’s love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children’s children—18with those who keep his covenant and remember to obey his precepts.

If there is one thing I’m certain of from my childhood it is that in the third grade my teacher, Mrs. Jackson, did not like me. She said I talked too much. Now, I’m not admitting any wrongdoing, but there is a possibility I was a talker. She was already old by the time I was in her class, and none of my youthful charm seemed to work on her. My kindler, gentler teachers in kindergarten, first, and second grades seemed to like me quite well. My teachers from the fourth grade up through high school seemed to like me too. Save for an incident in the 8th grade where a very juicy spit ball may or may not have left my hand and struck my friend in the face, I didn’t get in trouble in school. That is, except for Mrs. Jackson.

It was common for Mrs. Jackson to command talking students to move their desks to the back of the classroom, face it toward the wall, and sit there staring at the block wall. This was my seating assignment for big chunks of the year. Every day was a grind with Mrs. Jackson. It seemed like I was scolded every day, and nearly every day I had to see her sneering face and hear her shrill voice calling my name.

Once Mrs. Jackson, in her planning wisdom, decided to hand out papers to the class but did not have enough copies for everyone. We were supposed to share with someone next to us. As was my luck, I did not have a paper. When neither of the girls next to me would share, I whispered to the one on my left, “Let me see. Mrs. Jackson said we were supposed to share.” “Eric!” came that shrill voice. “No one will share with me,” I protested. “I don’t care. Move your desk to the wall.” And there I was looking again at the white block wall. (You should know that it is possible to talk to a wall.)

At the end of the year, there was a special field trip for the students in our class who had been given (by Mrs. Jackson) the title of “Student of the Month.” I was never given that title, and on the field trip day I sat in class with all the “Non Students of the Months” and Mrs. Jackson. At some point, my lovely teacher saw fit to announce to the class that I would’ve been student of the month, but “you just won’t shut-up.” Given that I do a bit of speaking in front of people now, I think Mrs. Jackson didn’t understand the potential in her midst. I’m bitter, but I’m getting over it.

Here’s the good news. God is not Mrs. Jackson. He does not sit at his desk at the front of the class waiting for you to make a mess of things. God has made his righteousness known through his Law, and this is a blessing because, as the apostle Paul says, we can see clearly the holiness of God and his expectations. However, this is not the end of the story. Psalm 103 reminds us that for those who have repented and turn to God (through Jesus the Christ as the New Testament makes clear), there is only compassionate forgiveness. There is unlimited grace for us, and more even than that.  God wants to remove our sins from us. There is a change that God has in store for each of us through Christ. As this renewal is happening, God is actively showing us mercy and grace because he remembers that at the end of the day we really are just noisy children that can’t stay out of trouble.


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