When I taught fifth grade science, my favorite unit was force and motion. This was the unit where I got to dress up as Issac Newton, take my kids ice skating (to demonstrate the laws of motion), and where the kids got to crash toy trucks into the wall and watch raw eggs crash from a fall unharmed. Our room doors were often closed during this unit because there were lots of flying pans, accidental water spills, raw egg yolks (from when the experiment went wrong) all over the room. It looked quite like a scene from a natural disaster film. My absolute favorite thing about the whole unit however, was the introduction, or shall we say the big bang theory.
Now before you call me a pagan and a hypocrite, let me explain. I’ve always believed in the educational big bang theory which basically states that any new lesson or concept that a teacher wishes to convey effectively to children must begin with a big bang. So for my force and motion unit, I do the Alka-Seltzer and water experiment. The first thing I do is pass out goggles to all my students. Immediately, you can see some students getting really excited while others are getting really nervous. Then I pair the students up and give each pair of students a film canister filled with water and an Alka-Seltzer tablet. One student drops the tablet in the water and the other student quickly closes the lid. Then they wait. I love using room temperature water because the wait is a bit longer and the students sometimes start to get bored. Just as they are about to turn away with disappointment, they hear a loud bang as the film canister lid shoots up in the air and the water explodes out of the film canister. This is often followed by screams of shock and delight. Some of the more timid students give me the look that says, “Was that supposed to happen?” Of course my calm, smug smile says it all. It happened exactly as planned.
Those of you who know my story know that I’ve had a lot of explosions in my life. For some reason I seem to be a very volatile Alka-Seltzer tablet. It’s like every environment that I get put in, even if it’s as innocent as room temperature water, I seem to cause an explosion. A couple days ago, I went to God and my was-that-supposed-to-happen question sounded like this, “Well, it’s obvious that you have given me wonderful opportunities and placed me in awesome environments like Moody, Washington School, the mandarin instructor job, and many others. However, I seem to be an expert at blowing up all the good things you have brought me to. I guess that just proves that I can do nothing right and I have no purpose.” Even before I finished speaking, God asked me, “What is the truth that counters that lie?” My special-needs brain went zzzz and I responded, “Uhhh…?” Immediately God brought to mind the well-known verse from Jeremiah 29:11, “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 a hope and a future.” When I finished reciting the verse in my mind, God prompted me to continue on to the next verses. Though I didn’t know what the verse said exactly at the time, I knew, as I have shared before, that it is about relationship. This is what the verses say, “Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares the Lord, and will bring you back from captivity.” God showed me that through every season and situation he has brought me to and through, he is accomplishing his two-fold purpose in my life: to draw me to himself and to free me from bondage (captivity). As I looked back through all of the experiences that I have been through, even and maybe especially the ones that ended in failure, I have seen that indeed, God has definitely used those experiences to draw me to himself and bring me to a greater degree of freedom from my past and my sinful behaviors. So when I look to him with that puzzled and bewildered expression, I see his calm smile that says, “Yep, it happened exactly as planned.”