CHURCH OF THE BRETHREN NETWORK
Continuing the work of Jesus : Peacefully ~ Simply ~ Together
Contributed by Judy Dotterer
Jeremy was born with a twisted body and a slow mind. At the age of twelve, he was still in the second grade, seemingly unable to learn. His teacher, Doris Miller, often became exasperated with him. He would squirm in his seat, drool, and often make grunting noises. At other times, he spoke clearly and distinctly, as if a spot of light had penetrated the darkness of his brain. Most of the time, however, Jeremy was an irritant to his teacher. One day she called his parents and asked them to come in for a consultation. As the Forresters entered the empty classroom, Doris said to them, “Jeremy really belongs in a special school. It isn’t fair to him to be with younger children who don’t have learning problems. Why, there is a five year gap between his age and that of the other students.” Mrs. Forrester cried softly into a tissue, while her husband spoke. “Miss Miller ... there is no school of that kind in this area. It would be a terrible shock for Jeremy if we had to take him out this school. We know how much he likes it here.” Doris sat for a long time after they had left, staring at the snow outside the classroom window. The outside coldness seemed to seep right through the walls into her soul. She wanted to sympathize with the Forresters. After all, their only child had a terminal illness. Jeremy was slowly dying. But it still wasn’t fair to keep him in her class. She had eighteen other youngsters to teach, and Jeremy was a constant distraction. Furthermore, he would never learn to read and write. Why waste any more time trying?
As she pondered the situation and her own words, guilt washed over her. Here I am complaining when my problems are nothing compared to that poor family, she thought. Lord, please help me to be more patient with Jeremy. From that day on, she tried very hard to ignore Jeremy’s discomforting noises and unnerving stares. Then one day, he limped to her desk, dragging his bad leg behind him. “I love you, Miss Miller,” he exclaimed, loud enough for the whole class to hear. The other students snickered, and Doris’ face turned red. She stammered, “Wh--why that’s very nice, Jeremy. N--now please take your seat.”
Winter soon past and as Spring approached, the children talked excitedly about the coming of Easter. Doris told them the story of Jesus, and then to emphasize the idea of new life springing forth, she gave each of the children a large plastic egg. “Now,” she said to them, “I want each of you to take your egg along home, and then bring it back tomorrow with something inside that shows new life. Do you understand?” “Yes, Miss Miller,” the children responded enthusiastically -- all except for Jeremy. He listened intently; his eyes never left her face. He did not even make his usual noises. Had he understood what she had said about Jesus’ death and resurrection? Did he understand the assignment? Perhaps she should call his parents and explain the project to them. That evening, Doris’ kitchen sink drain became clogged. She called the landlord and waited an hour for him to come by and remove the blockage. After that, she hastily shopped for groceries, ironed a blouse, and prepared a vocabulary test for the next day. She completely forgot about phoning Jeremy’s parents.
The next morning, nineteen children came to school, laughing and talking as they placed their eggs in the large wicker basket on Miss Miller’s desk. After they completed their math lesson, it was time to open the eggs. In the first egg, Doris found a flower. “Oh yes, a flower is certainly a sign of new life,” she said. “When plants peek through the ground, we know that Spring is here.” A small girl in the first row waved her arm. “That’s my egg, Miss Miller,” she called out. The next egg contained a plastic butterfly, which looked very real. Doris held it up. “We all know that a caterpillar changes and grows into a beautiful butterfly. Yes, that’s new life, too.” Sitting next to the windows, Judy smiled proudly and said, “Miss Miller, that one is mine.” The next egg contained a rock with moss on it. She explained that moss, too, showed life. Billy spoke up from the back of the classroom, “My daddy helped me,” he beamed.
Then Doris opened the fourth egg. She gasped. The egg was empty. Most certainly it was Jeremy’s. Naturally, he did not understand her instructions. If only she had not forgotten to phone his parents. Because she did not want to embarrass him, she quietly set the egg aside and reached for another. Suddenly, Jeremy spoke up. “Miss Miller, aren’t you going to talk about my egg?” Taken off guard and flustered, Doris replied, “But Jeremy, your egg is empty.” He looked into her eyes and said softly, “Yes, but Jesus’ tomb was empty, too.” Time froze in that classroom. Not a single word broke the heavy silence. When she could speak again, Doris asked him, “Do you know why the tomb was empty?” “Oh, yes,” Jeremy said, “Jesus was killed and put in there. Then His Father raised Him up.” Later when the recess bell rang, the children excitedly ran out to the schoolyard, but Doris could not keep from sobbing like a child. Not only did Jeremy understand his assignment, the Holy Spirit used him to impact both teacher and class in a way that would not be soon forgotten. The emotional cold inside Doris melted completely away. She was now able to understood God more clearly than ever before.
Jeremy died three months later. Doris went to the funeral. Each of his classmates also went along with their parents. Such a tiny lifeless body. The troublesome lad would irritate no one again. His exasperating classroom distractions seemed to be a million years in the past. As people quietly moved by the casket to pay their final respects, they were curiously surprised to see “nineteen” eggs laying on top of his casket. Each one was open ... and empty.
“I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me,
though he were dead, yet shall he live. ”