I was the boys’ math teacher. My wife was a scientist and had been a far better math student. But, I liked math and so it fell to me to be the boys’ math teacher.
My most memorable math teaching day came one afternoon when the two older boys were about 10 and 8 respectively.
After lunch I announced that I had some work to do, but that we would be doing math “in a little while, so get ready”. Then I went into my office where math fell out of my mind completely.
Time went by when, suddenly, I came to my senses and remembered that we were supposed to be doing math. I went into the dining room looking for the boys. At the table set James, dutifully waiting for his math lesson, math book on the table in front of him.
“Where is Seth?” I asked, naively expecting my oldest son to be sitting next to his brother, hands folded on his math book, waiting eagerly to do math.
“I don’t know,” said James.
“Is he in the house?” I inquired.
“I don’t know.”
I went through the house calling for Seth. No answer. I opened the front door and stepped onto the porch. My eyes scanned the ten acre front pasture. No Seth. I called his name. No answer. I called louder. No answer. Again. Each call got louder with a little more agitation added. No answer.
“Hmm,” I said, “he’s obviously not out here.”
I walked back into the house and toward the back door. When I passed through the kitchen I glanced out the window onto the back pasture. There was Seth.
I burst through the kitchen door and onto the back deck. I was not a happy camper.
I have a whistle that can be heard from here to the moon and, when I whistle, the boys know to get to my side as fast as they can. Incidentally, this turned out to be really important one day when, as a small child, Seth became separated from us in a massive crowd at Disneyworld. The whistle brought him immediately to us.
I raised my fingers to my lips prepared to let go the most ferocious whistle possible. But, just then, something happened…
All at once, I felt the Lord say to me, “Don’t do that!”
I lowered my hands and leaned on the deck’s railing. I looked across the pasture at my son. Seth was lying on his pony’s back, head cradled in his cupped hands on the pony’s rump. His bony elbows splayed out in both directions. His long legs hung down on each of the pony’s sides. As Magic moved from one patch of grass to the next, Seth’s body slowly twisted and turned with its movements. Neither seemed to be aware of the other.
Then, the unexpected happened. I was suddenly overwhelmed with an astonishing emotion. It came over me like a wave. It is difficult to describe because it came with a picture, a picture of myself, like Seth at ten years of age, only I was sitting at a little wooden desk at the back of a school classroom listening to some woman droning on and on about some long-forgotten truth.
Tears filled my eyes and I choked out the words, “Oh, God, to be ten years old, lying on your pony’s back, watching the clouds roll by instead of sitting in a classroom, bored to death.”
That is when I sensed His smile. And, I felt Him say to me, “You don’t know, but I might even be talking to him right now. Your math can wait. This can’t.”
I watched my son for a long time. It was a matchless day, the sky filled with fluffy clouds and a warm breeze making the tall grass wave back and forth. A perfect day to be lost in His creation. Finally, I turned and went back into the house.
“Hey, James,” I said to the boy still sitting at the dining room table. “What do you say we share a bowl of ice cream?”
“Sure, Dad,” James said with a smile.
Frankly, I don’t remember when we did math. But, it got done…