erin ahnfeldt

Listening to Life

The lights were off in room 216. Only a few minutes into the lockdown drill, Jaylen and Becca were already fighting over a phone. The more Jaylen struggled to get it back, the more Becca laughed, holding it just out of reach. We watched them stand up, cussing and laughing in the phone’s blue light. My blood boiled while the students sat quietly, curious to see their teacher’s next move.

Rolling my eyes in the darkness, I stood up. Becca saw me walking toward them, and immediately the phone was in Jaylen’s pocket. I looked at their darkened silhouettes. “Really? This is when you choose to goof off. We practice this drill to be ready for something serious.” My voice was getting louder. “It is not a joke, but you both act like it is.” They weren’t listening, only looking at the floor and then each other, still smiling. “I want to see you both after class.”

This was not a surprise. Staying after class was part of their routine. After everyone walked out, I told them I was calling their parents, but they knew as well as I did that calling home probably wouldn’t help. In fact, it only added more gasoline to the fire. After a number of detentions and calls, Jaylen’s mom never called back, and Becca’s mom sent me an email saying she was tired of the “tattling”. She felt the calls about behavior and grades were childish, no better than a little kid “tattling” on another kid. The email concluded with the threat of a lawsuit coming my way; she would be contacting her lawyer. Of course, the address bar at the top included administrators and all of Becca’s other teachers. Her words were meant to be public to bring down as much shame as possible.

I leaned forward in my desk staring at the glow of the screen while my office mate shuffled through papers behind me. No solutions came to mind, only adrenaline pulsing through my body. As anger began to rise in the face of fear, the Holy Spirit cleared the field by making one truth very clear; the battle would not be won fighting the girls or even Becca’s mom. That email brought clarity. They were not the enemy. My Enemy was much bigger than any threat in an email or disrespect during a drill, and he wanted the girls and I to fight each other. All that fighting would suck the life out of us. It was time to fight him.

Tuesday mornings offer a much-needed sanity break during the roller coaster ride of the school year. Before heading off to make copies, check in kids or do last-minute lesson plans, a few security guards, teachers, counselors, and the woman who runs the copy room circle up desks to pray. It’s only thirty minutes sitting in a quiet classroom, but that time changes the way we see the rest of the week. A verse is read aloud at the beginning, and it satisfies something deep inside, something more than the King Soopers muffins can satisfy that we save for the end. And just being there together is a powerful reminder that we’re never alone.

One Tuesday, especially, gave me a glimpse into the power of bringing requests to the God who sees. Jaylen and Becca, and the anxiety that went with them, weighed heavy on me, so I gave them to God. With heads bowed, I whispered, “Lord, you know how hard things are with Jaylen and Becca. I don’t know what to do. Please help me. Give me wisdom to handle them, and banish the Enemy from that classroom.” Jim, a math teacher and a friend, was sitting next to me, and he followed up: “Yes, Lord, we pray together that you would protect Erin’s classroom and make it a place for learning. Return joy to that class and turn this situation around.” I needed that time. I needed to let God take the burden, and I needed to hear Jim pray. There was power there, and I felt it. We were battling the way we’re supposed to battle, not against “flesh and blood” but against an enemy who trembles when believers go to their Father for help.

What I couldn’t see as we prayed was how well God saw me. He saw past the masks I wear, past the walls of “I’m fine. How about you?”. He saw the battles in my class all the way at the end of that hall in room 216, and that Tuesday morning, He saw the anxiety pulsing through my body like electricity as I sat in that circle praying. My prayer, Jim’s prayer were not sent to deaf ears. He was there with us, seeing our hearts, listening to our words, and if I ever doubted that God had my back. . .if I ever wondered if God really cared about our beat up hearts, His quick, decisive answer sent those doubts sprawling for cover. The Bible describes God as a “Warrior” (Exodus 15:3). He fights for those who are His, and when I left that circle of prayer Tuesday morning, I had no idea just how powerfully God would prove He fights for me too.

That’s all for today! Thanks for reading, and make sure to check out the conclusion in two weeks. One of my greatest joys in life is to use words to encourage. I hope to do that with these stories, and someday soon with a book. If you think others might be encouraged by these words, please consider sharing this on Facebook or forwarding it to a friend. And if someone sent this to you, you can sign up here to get these stories twice a month. Thank you for your support!