I won't keep my hand down.

September 10, 2012

To this day, he doesn’t know how profoundly he changed me in that moment.

I was a sophomore in high school sitting in my mandatory chemistry class. The periodic table of elements and formation of atoms was a foreign language to me, but I sat there, trying to learn enough just to get by with a decent grade.

I asked questions to help me better understand what was going on and my teacher would be so vague with his answers. There was a sarcasm in his voice that told me my questions were uncalled for and ridiculous. If no one else was asking questions, then what was my problem?

I was still struggling to understand what I am sure was the most simple of chemistry lessons. But the problem was, I didn't understand. My brain wasn't - and still isn't - built for science. I just needed an explanation.

I raised my hand.

He stopped mid-sentence and looked at me with a mocking stare.

"Put your hand down," he said.

"But I have a question," I stuttered.

"Shut up. You don't have a question." He turned his back and continued the lesson as though there was never an interruption.

I put my hand down as tears welled behind my eyes. I'm not going to cry. I'm not going to cry. I was so beyond frustrated at not understanding. I had been shut down, shut out and shut up. I had no choice but to sit there, attempt to understand, and get through the rest of the school year.

To this day, I am afraid to ask questions. 

If I ask my husband a question because I don't understand and he shows even the slightest bit of frustration, I shut down and say, "Nevermind." Tears well behind my eyes as I remember how I felt as a fifteen-year-old who just needed a simple answer. He quickly responds, "No, I want to hear your question." By then, it's too late. I've put my hand down.

Throughout my twenties especially, I have found that God made me inquisitive so I can think deeper than just the surface. Through my writing, I answer my own questions through words. He made me an answer-seeker in my relationships with Him, others and myself. God made me. And He made me to ask questions. He made us to ask questions.

I am bitter that I still carry a sting from twelve years ago. I am angry that I let one selfish person hinder part of my identity. I am sorry that it has bled into my marriage and relationships.

But through God's grace, I am working on it. I am learning it's okay to ask questions. I am learning to be patient with myself and others if they don't like to be asked too many questions. I am learning to release the shame and guilt associated with that day in chemistry class.

Most of all, I am learning I don't have to put my hand down.

This post was inspired by Angie Smith's post, "In the Mending."

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  1. Based on his age when he was teaching, I am certain he is no longer teaching twelve years later. It's unfortunate he left that mark and I hope he eventually realized it!

  2. You sound like me in math class. I cried my way through many a math lesson! Writers for life.

  3. Please make sure you find him - via Facebook or other means - and let him know how he affected you. You will say that you have to forgive, and you do, but he is likely still teaching and destroying other children. My husband is a teacher and he would NEVER do what you have described. He needs to be told. And it sounds like he was in the wrong job from the get-go.

  4. Oh, that is so sad! It really is a shame how much damage ignorant adults can do. I am constantly reminded by these stories to be more patient and aware of how I treat children. Praise God that you seek healing from this memory! I pray that you overcome your fears.


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