Attending a one-room schoolhouse is something most people have only read about, but for me it was a reality for the first and second grade in rural Ohio. Eight grades in one large room provided an experience like no other. Of course there were only a few students for each grade and as I think about it, those moms today who home school their children probably have a greater feel for the experience than most anyone else. Even so, to have 25 students in one room at different grade levels taught by one teacher meant you needed an extraordinary teacher. My teacher’s name was Mrs. Queen and the name fit her as perfectly as the smile she always wore. I couldn’t wait to see her each day.
The room was arranged with desks in rows and sections according to grade level. A large coal stove stood to one side and was used to heat the room in the winter. Behind the stove were a row of hooks for coats and jackets. Bathrooms were the more primitive outdoor variety. The playground had one set of swings and an abundance of grass. Somehow it all worked and in the late spring, Mrs. Queen sometimes walked with us down the road to an open field near a creek where we could eat lunch and have room to explore.
I was one of three little girls in the first grade. Our desks were up front in the room, but the front wall’s black chalkboard gave us a glimpse of what other grades were assigned and we could also hear and benefit from the instruction students above us received. The disadvantage for me was my seeming inability to tune out the instruction for other grades and focus on my own work. It sounded more interesting than the work I was assigned. I also am and was a very auditory learner so I would zero in on all sorts of new information long before that material would be given to me. In fact, I learned a lot by listening. (I still do!)
I listened so well to the other girls in my class reading aloud that when it came to my turn, I could read the pages without stumbling over a single word. It seemed like I was the best reader in the class and I got credit for that until Mrs. Queen discovered the truth. I was not reading the words, but imitating. I pretended to read, but had instead memorized the stories in the reading book. It was almost the middle of the first grade and I was caught. My parents were told and I needed to start at the beginning of the first grade reader again. I was mortified.
There are many things I learned by imitation and this may not be a bad thing, but some things do not work that way. I can imitate the way my mother crimped a piecrust. I can imitate how I use my camera lens after I watch a You Tube video. I can imitate a British accent after watching Downton Abbey perhaps.
In the spiritual realm, however, I cannot imitate the nature of Jesus. It is either in me or it is not.
As a believer, I am called to often be and do what is not my duty, to love when it would be easier to resent, to persevere when it would be easier to walk away, to respond with grace when a comment made is less then loving.
If I only imitate, I will be found out as surely as Mrs. Queen detected I was not reading. I will also dishonor the Lord in my life when others discover I was only imitating.