THE 4:41 FORGIVENESS PLAN
To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you. Lewis B. Smedes
It is the fourth day of 2022 and already I can hear resolutions evaporating into the thin air of human thought. Today I fully expected my gym to be filled with disciplined and encouraged people ready to address the new year’s fitness goals. To my surprise, there were lots of parking spaces to choose. So enough about resolutions. Mostly they are empty promises we make to ourselves only to see them diminished by a busy schedule, the continued dismal forecast of Covid and the human frailty of commitment. But here is one resolve you should keep for 2022: forgiveness.
Have you faced any of these issues? Parents disliked you enough to disinherit you and your child? Spouse cheated on you and left you for a younger model? Fired from two jobs? Colleagues went out of their way to make your daily routine unbearable and ultimately engineered your removal? Upon forced retirement, you thought travel could be in your future only to see the world shut down?
For you see, all of the above dreadful situations actually happened to me over a period of 30 years. Enough already with the Pity Party! When you contemplate my plight, things actually could have been worse! Life happens and forgiving those who did you wrong is the healthiest thing I can offer you for a better new year.
When weighing the onslaught of what my life’s journey produced, I do believe losing my job in my last position was actually the worst. Employed at this school for nine years, I grew the choir program from three to eight choirs, worked diligently long hours and weekends, received regional recognition for my work, and our choirs earned state and national acclaim. But it wasn’t good enough for my administration. As my principal yelled at me I was no longer welcomed to be the choral director, I innocently said, “What about the award I’m receiving at my final concert? Are you firing me before I can get my award?” The answer was “yes.” I still received the award but it was bittersweet. I was recognized as the area’s outstanding choral director in front of a standing room audience of students and parents who knew I lost my job.
I cannot describe the embarrassment, sadness and eventual anger I felt. What do you do when you’ve spent your entire life establishing an exemplary teaching career and literally in 24 hours you’ve joined the ranks of those no one wishes to hire? The answer became clear: write a book.
And so I did. Rescue the Teacher, Save the Child! reflects my 40+ years as an educator. But it’s not just a memoir. I designed my book as a learning tool directed at four points of view: students, parents, teachers and administrators. I’m happy to say, last week I received word my book is required reading in an Ohio school. Hopefully there will be more schools to come.
So where is this forgiveness I spoke about at the beginning of this blog/podcast? My book says it best:
What detoured my life from permanent vacation to a meaningful retirement? The death of my dear friend Charles, to whom this book is dedicated. The paradox of his passing? In my own funeral plans, I formally requested Charles to organize the celebratory music. Instead I composed his eulogy, which culminated in a much-needed therapy for my own life. Charles looked to me for direction during his life. Upon his death, I received light on my darkened path, a result of my inadvertently losing my bearings.
After I returned home from the funeral, I sensed Charles’ voice exhorting me to start on my book. A few days later, I began to write, and kept it up ever since. The joy of sharing my experiences lifts my soul. This healing, although not complete, offers me a new perspective: unfair things do happen, and how we respond ultimately determines our peace. Nothing new or riveting in that sentence. A tumultuous journey may cloud and postpone the ultimate destination of restorative health. Welcome the turbulent pilgrimage as it affords immense insight to understanding the human dynamics of enduring pain.
The 4:41 Forgiveness Plan: The most productive way to heal is to forgive. At 4:41 am, 19 months after my dismissal, I found myself wide awake. I sat up in bed, looked at my out of use alarm clock and decided it was time to forgive all those who attempted to wrong me. I wish the moment filled with trumpets, beams from heaven and the sweet singing of angels. It was not. As the saying goes: hating those people is similar to preparing a glass of poison for each to take, only I am the one drinking it. Consumed with animosity for those who did me ill only postponed the healing. While no heavenly orchestrated angel choir performed, I firmly testify my soul overflowed with peace for the first time in over a year. Peace which had not found its way until I became the willing participant to forgive. Do not misunderstand forgiveness as easy or a sign of weakness. Forgiveness is one of the most powerful emotions you will ever experience. It takes time and tremendous effort to move forward. I do experience moments of reminiscing about those colleagues, parents and administrators who went out of their way to rain down hurt. But the difference now is that I put a stop to the pain by simply stating, “4:41 Forgiveness is still intact.”
Pursue Pause: Setting aside quiet time and reflecting on good things proves restorative in nature. After many years of labor-intensive teaching, contemplating life in stillness challenges me. God cultivated a plan for my life from the very beginning. He used people, both in a negative and positive way, to lighten, darken and detour my path. My odyssey entrenched itself in the day to day rigors of teaching. God actually gifted me a life detour through the actions of a few determined to remove me. Writing a book postponed itself each summer. Time now walks alongside me as my friend. Through months of developing a manuscript, I truly understand the incredible things which happened to me. In the tranquility of writing, decades of memorable teaching highlights flowed from the back recesses of my mind.
And there you have it. My gift to you for 2022 is to take time to forgive those who hurt you. It is not easy. I hope it takes you less than the 19 months it took me. I still think about those ruthless people and their deliberate persecution. But as of today, some four and a half years later, I can honestly say the 4:41 Forgiveness Plan continues to surround me with tranquility.
TUNE IN SOON. Here’s a tease: a student, who attended the school where I spent my final nine years, has offered to collaborate, using his original music as a background for my podcasts. More information coming soon!
PLEASE SHARE THIS LINK WITH ANY AND ALL . Read more of my thoughts at: rescuetheteacher.com. If you’re experiencing unfair practices in your teaching position, please reach out to me at rescuetheteacher @yahoo.com! Here is even a better idea: propose a book study of Rescue the Teacher, Save the Child! for your school district. I would be happy to come and lead it!