by Pastor Chuck Schlie
I am 23 years old. I am a first year teacher at Concord Lutheran School. It is the middle of winter in Chicagoland and every March, the sixth graders in this particular school participate in something called: Outdoor Education.
The teacher (me) would, more or less; go camping with a bunch of 11 and 12 year olds for a week in freezing temperatures so that a quality outdoor educational experience would be had by all. And so it was, that I found myself in the middle of March, outside of a little, northern Illinois town at a place called: Walcamp.
The students were to be taught such things as, tree identification – which was a real challenge since there were no leaves. So we did evergreen identification. I also taught mapping skills and a course called, “Pioneering.”
Pioneering was a chance to introduce to the kids how to use old pioneer equipment: a two-handed saw, a wood auger, hatchets, etc…show them how the pioneers did it. Which was another joke. I am not an outdoorsman.
And so I’m in the middle of the woods with a group of sixth-graders and I’m doing my very best Davy Crockett imitation, and did I mention – it’s freezing?! But I had brought out all the equipment that the camp provided, which they kept in this very neat and tidy storage room.
I brought out a saw, a hatchet and an iron wedge; with the hopes that I would teach the kiddos how to split wood for a fire. Of course, I had never done this before; so it was going to be quite a demonstration. I found a nearby log, placed the wedge in the dead center and proceeded to wail away on the wedge by using the flip-side of the ax-hatchet thing. And wedge was going into the log deeper and deeper and deeper….but the log wasn’t splitting.
There was a reason for this. For the big “pioneer” here, had put the wedge into a stump. Instead of trying to split a log, I was trying to split a stump…apparently a very deep stump. Now, I had a real problem. How was I going to get his wedge out? I was really stumped.
Well, I figured I would just use the pointy part of the hatchet-ax and chop around the wedge out of the stump (just like the pioneers must have). And so I’m chopping away and the kids are all standing around watching me and snickering and it’s getting colder outside and now it’s time for dinner because I heard the ringing of the giant triangle – “Come and get it!”
So I send the kids in for their sloppy joes and tater tots, while I spend the next hour trying to get the wedge out of the “log.” Which I eventually did. But as a result of the chopping and hitting the iron wedge with the iron ax, the ax looked like it had been severely abused – which it had been. It’s edge was mutilated, all chipped and curled over. And now, the story gets worse.
Because here is what I did. I took that ax back to the supply closet and I didn’t put it where I got it from (the middle of the shelf). Instead I hid the ax underneath the very bottom of the shelf – just slid it right on the floor so the ax could not be found easily. Problem solved.
The next morning the kids and I were having our breakfast in the dining hall area and I’m munching my Corn Pops when the Camp Director, a very serious and somber, Eyore-ish woman came up to me and asked to see me in her office. And since it was our last morning at camp, I figured it had to do with last minute instructions, clean-up rules, that sort of thing.
I followed her into her office, sat down in the chair facing her big wooden desk and there was something sitting right on top that I sadly recognized – the ax.
Busted. I confessed. And so, I had to go back to school that afternoon and hand my principal a bill charging the school $50 to replace this apparently one-of-a-kind antique pioneer ax.
But that wasn’t the worst part – the punishment. No, the worst part was, and still is; the fact that I tried to hide it. Just what kind of a person does that? What kind of a teacher – a Lutheran School teacher at that, would be so sneaky, so wimpy, so stupid???….and the answer of course is: I am!
How foolish it was to try and sneak my sin by the Camp Director, how all the more when I think I can do the same with God.
Chuck Schlie serves as Associate Pastor and Head of School at Messiah Lutheran School. As a father of 5 and over 25 years of ministry experience, he writes about faith, family and occasionally…fun!