Remember when you were in grade school and your teacher did the dreaded Popcorn Reading fiasco? The one that was supposed to be a “better practice” than Round Robin reading?
Oh, the lovely basal readers. I can still remember the way the pages crackled when we opened them. In early elementary years, my teachers would employ the Round Robin style of reading, where each child in the room–in order–would read a paragraph of the story out loud–in order. Well, educators found out one day that many students were not comprehending what was read during this practice because kids were too busy counting paragraphs ahead to see which one would fall to them for reading aloud. Then kids spent the rest of their time practicing “their” paragraph silently instead of listening to their peers struggle through the story. Thus, no comprehension…who knew?
So teachers turned to the hot mess of Popcorn Reading when I was in junior high school. Oh the memories. I can testify that there was no comprehension here either. Students either lived in terror that they would be called to read the next paragraph about unknown STD’s and body functions and big words or they quickly crammed the next paragraph while their peer suffered through the current one. Still no comprehension.
I remember being called on at one point for Popcorn Reading in junior high school. It had to be the longest paragraph I’d ever seen and it was all about stuff I’d never heard of before. Even though I was a good reader, I had no background knowledge of the bodily functions that were so thoroughly laid out in the text, and amidst the twitters and whispers of my peers–and my own realization that I was making a mess of the vocabulary–, my voice started shaking warily and my forehead started sweating profusely…and I started running out of breath.
It was the one paragraph I prayed to not have to read aloud, and it was suddenly thrust on me. There was no comprehension that day. Only anxiety, embarrassment, and sweat.
Whether you had to participate in Round Robin, Popcorn Reading, or–blessedly–your teacher thought of more authentic ways for reading and comprehension, you all have a paragraph that you don’t want to read aloud. Or maybe a chapter. Or a whole book.
And so do I. We all do.
And it has nothing to do with Biology, Math, or History. It has to do with us. With our lives and our own choices.
No matter if you think your life has been grace-filled, full of blessing, or filled with sorrow, there are parts that you don’t like to relive. You can’t fathom ever having to read those paragraphs aloud…your palms start sweating, your breathing gets erratic, and your head starts swimming.
There are parts of our stories that we think can never be shared. We think they are too dark, too dirty, too messed-up, too ugly.
I have one myself. Probably a few! And, I have to admit, there is still no comprehension present in certain situations. I’m too terrified of what others would think…I can hear twitters, and whispers, and I start to sweat. No reading aloud. No comprehension.
WHY? I dare to ask the Author. The One who writes my story. How did that chapter even get in there? I don’t understand how I got to that situation, Lord…
And the Author…He whispers, in His infinite wisdom, in His gentleness, in His love…
Because you took the pen.
Oh, what joys and experiences and peace that I have missed! All because I took the pen from the very Author of my life. All because I thought I could write a better story for me than He could.
It’s hard, sometimes, giving that control back to the Father. Letting Him be the Author. It’s easy to say that I want Him to be in control of my life, but it’s another thing entirely to actually GIVE that control over to Him. As a matter of fact, I can’t even do that on my own strength. Sometimes I don’t even know that I’ve snatched it right out of His hands, until I hear that still small voice whisper to my heart.
Beloved, give Me the pen.
And I look down, and there in my white-knuckled grasp is the pen. The control that I longed for that has suddenly scribbled all over my pages and muddied them up. And suddenly, I don’t want the pen.
So I offer it up the One true Author of creation. The Author of my soul, of my life.
And He lovingly goes back over my scribbles and mistakes and makes them into a purposeful, lovely story ready to share with others.
Even the parts I didn’t want to read aloud. The parts that make my voice wobble and my eyes tear up. Those parts become some of the most important.
You have chapters like that too, don’t you, friend?
Give the pen back to the Author. It can be scary, I know. But He will make those chapters into such beauty that you won’t even recognize the ashes that lived there before.
And He may call on your heart to share that particular chapter with someone who is just waiting and needing to hear it. And suddenly, that chapter…the one you never wanted to read out loud? It will become the highlight of your story. One that you’ll want to share again and again.
That’s what the Author does. Give Him the pen.
“He will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair.” Isaiah 61:3 NLT