My 5th-grade teacher, Terri Nobles, had a 2×4 in our classroom with the words “BOARD OF EDUCATION” written in black permanent marker. And if you failed to heed her warnings…no, she wouldn’t whack you with it. (I know I grew up in the Alabama countryside, but we weren’t that backwards!) Anyway, if you got in trouble, you’d find yourself at a picnic table during recess with that 2×4 and a piece of sandpaper, trying to get rid of the black permanent marker. It’s shocking how deep permanent marker can sink into old pine.
You’ve probably guessed I spent my fair share of recesses with Mrs. Nobles hovering over me. I can still see her grin and hear her cackling in that thick-as-molasses southern drawl.
“Steve Austin!” she’d say, “Life is hard, and then you die.” (For those of you who haven’t heard a true country drawl, she’d draw the word “life” out into about seven syllables. It was something like, “Laaaaaaaf is haarrd, an’ then y’daaaaah.”)
You laugh – or maybe you cringe at that story – but the principle isn’t necessarily wrong. Growing up in Prosperity Gospel churches, it seemed most folks believed that the Christian life meant the end of suffering, pain, and hard times. We pictured God as some sort of cosmic Santa Claus, handing out health, wealth, and happiness to all the good little kids. But life just doesn’t work that way, no matter how religious you are.
In this world, we are going to suffer. It’s an unfortunate side effect of life. Terri Nobles is standing there, leaning over the picnic table of your life, saying, “Life is hard, and then you die.” We want to name it and claim it, believe it and receive it, blab it and grab it. We think those truth-tellers are discouraging and depressing, but it doesn’t have to be that way. After all, Jesus showed up on the scene and echoes the cry of all the realists: “In this world, you will have trouble.” He hands us the BOARD OF EDUCATION, while everybody else is playing, and whispers, “Life is hard…”
Steve Austin is an author, speaker, and life coach who is passionate about helping overwhelmed people learn to catch their breath. He is the author of two Amazon bestsellers, "Catching Your Breath," and "From Pastor to a Psych Ward." Steve lives with his wife and two children in Birmingham, Alabama.
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