Originally written October 11, 2011
Edited November 3, 2020
Fresh out of college, his eyes sparkled. A smile creased the corners of each eye, a reflection of the exuberant attitude he possessed on education. Sixth grade is going to be fun. I can tell, and it’s only the first day of school, I thought to myself.
That’s how I remember Mr. Forsey’s sixth-grade class. Well-lit room. Desks lined in neat rows. Teacher’s desk in the far right corner, back of the room. A place for artwork on the walls. A teacher with the love of Christ in his heart. My grounding memories also included: positive classes, fun assignments, and an overall safe place to just “be”—an environment conducive for authenticity and growth. That’s probably what stood out most.
Fast forward twenty-five years. If I’m being transparent, true honesty would reveal: I don’t know why I’m thinking back on my sixth grade year. Yes, I learned a lot from Mr. Forsey. His class highlighted one of my best years in grade school/junior high. Yet, even though I know my knowledge expanded under his direction, I don’t remember how I gained my wisdom. Was this the year I finally understood grammatical conjugation in English class? Or did I grasp photosynthesis in science for the first time? Was I introduced to van Gogh during an art session? Or did I have one of my poems published in the school newspaper? I can’t say. But I do remember a very important detail: someone believed in me and applauded my passion for life and learning and finding my voice. My knack for thinking outside the box became a gift, a treasured tool used for higher education, not looked down on as an abnormality or curse.
I sat there contemplating how differently I saw the world now versus my younger days. Guess that’s why flashes of Mr. Forsey’s class had entered my mind. I think God knew I needed to be reminded of a time when I didn’t feel broken—when my dreams felt reasonable and probably even attainable. A time where I hadn’t been verbally beaten down, and I could still feel God’s creative energy surging through my veins. I needed a reminder of the me from that era, because the real me lived on those pages of history, and I missed her.
As I took time reminiscing, God bent down and dusted off the line I had obscured between right and wrong. He helped me realize I had been listening to the negative voices in my head year after year instead of following my inner compass. He repositioned me in front of the start line of adulthood and encouraged me to begin again—giving me new perspectives in place of a battered self esteem and fragmented ego.
It got me thinking. I once read a quote by Maya Angelou that (paraphrased) says: “People may not remember exactly what you did, or what you said, but they will always remember how you made them feel.” Maybe that’s why sixth grade held such importance to me in this moment in time. It reflected all the “before life got messy” moments: before lies twisted my childhood home into confusion, before a contentious divorce displaced all my trust in men and the judicial system, before never-ending custody battles plagued motherhood and took away my dream of raising my children in a safe and stable environment. I once had a clear view of my future, and I needed that clarity again; because, somewhere along the way, the path in front of me had gotten muddy, and exhaustion had seeped into my bones while trudging through the muck.
Something else enlightened my musings, bringing this thought into focus: sometimes God uses memories to awaken the truth inside us, to stoke the need we have for Him, but only feel in His absence. “For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God. Everything is naked and exposed before His eyes, and He is the One to Whom we are accountable. This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for He faced all of the same testings we do, yet He did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive His mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.” Hebrews 4:12-13, 15-16 NLT