erin ahnfeldt

Listening to Life

Jaylen and Becca pushed me to the edge. I had nothing left, so in a little group of friends seated in a circle of desks, I prayed for help. There was no way of knowing at the time, after we all finished praying and sliding our desks back into rows, but that same day, I was about to see God fight for me like never before.

Lunch came and went, and 6th period was just around the corner. Going into room 216, I knew I had to do some lecturing, and the students would be taking notes—not their favorite. I mustered up a “Good afternoon students!” with as much enthusiasm as I could offer, and they gave me a half-hearted “Good afternoon, Mr. Ahnfeldt.” The lunchtime sugar crash was upon us.

Turning toward the white board, I lifted my marker and started writing. Becca and Jaylen were seated on opposite ends of the room—oh the beauty of seating charts—but when I turned around, Jaylen was laughing.

As soon as I looked across the room in Becca’s direction, she was smiling too, but quickly replaced it with an exaggerated sad face. She was playing a game and wanted me to know it. Every time I turned my back to write on the board, I would hear a chuckle or catch some quick movement from Jaylen or Becca out of the corner of my eye. Whatever they were doing was to entertain and distract which would lead to more covered giggles.

My first thought was to ignore it, to let it go and see if the lack of attention would make the “game” boring and end it. The giggles continued, and with two or three more turns toward the class, I saw either Jaylen making a gun with her hand pointed at me or Becca slicing her neck with her finger. A point of the “gun” or a slice of the finger led to a chuckle from one of the girls and some awkward looks from classmates.

The serious nature of the game they were playing isolated them. Nobody else wanted to join, and when it continued and I was sure the “gun” and slicing were meant for me, I turned to them and said, “Girls, go into the hall and wait for me. Let’s go.” They walked out still laughing, and I got the students writing in their journals so I could step out for a minute.

“What’s with making the gun and slicing your neck?” I asked, closing the door behind me.

“What do you mean?” Becca asked. “We never did that.”

“I saw you making guns. Do you realize the kind of consequences you could face messing around like that?” They didn’t seem to get it. It was still funny to them. “Wait for me here while I finish up class.”

They didn’t wait. They were gone, and when the bell rang, I dropped into my chair absolutely exhausted. Phone calls were made to parents. They needed to know about the detention, but when I went downstairs to talk to Greg, our dean, he had a different idea. His voice was clear and strong: “Erin, I am tired of dealing with these girls. You’re not the only one putting up with their nonsense. Threatening to kill you is a criminal offense.” He looked down at his desk shaking his head and then looked up at me. “Would you be willing to fill out a police report?”

Death threats and police reports were not exactly what I was picturing when I signed up to teach. With my heart pounding in my head, I filled out the report. Winds of anger, insecurity and anxiety whipped around me like hurricane winds. Then, I remembered—that morning, I prayed for help.

Walking into school the next day felt heavy. The joy of teaching, the joy of laughing with students and opening up books to talk about things that mattered was all but gone. If room 216 was the ring of my heavy-weight fight, I was up against the ropes. I didn’t know if I had it in me to go one more round with those girls. But one more round never came. They never made it to my 6th period class. As they sat in a desk wherever they were that Wednesday morning, a police officer walked into one of their morning classes and escorted them out.

Later that day in class, nobody asked about the girls. They all knew. I walked through the aisles of desks with students writing in their journals and raising their hands to ask questions. The fight was finally over, but there were no winners. There were no victory laps for me to run, only a heart that felt rescued. This beat-up old penny of a man was getting the life squeezed out of him. Then we prayed in that little circle of desks, and that same day, two girls walked out of my class for the last time.

The miracle ending would be for Becca and Jaylen to change their ways, maybe even come to Young Life, and set the academic standard for the class, but that’s not what happened. They were just gone. I wasn’t the incredible teacher who finally found a way to get through to them; they never even graduated from Doherty.

I did, however, get a front row seat to one of the most unsung miracles of all—God writes the story. It’s days like that Tuesday that prove there’s an Author, and He cares about His characters. If I was writing the story, I probably would’ve skipped the chapter about escalated phone fights, death threats and police reports, but I’m glad I’m not. It was the difficulty of room 216 that made me reach out for the Author whose heart is behind every page He writes, including the hard parts. And Jaylen and Becca? Well, their story isn’t over. When they left my classroom that day, they may have stepped beyond the reach of a flawed teacher with a broken love, but they’ll never step outside the love of God. He’s the Author who wove a rescue into the pages of my story, and He can rescue them too.

That’s all for today! One of my greatest joys is using 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!