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When You Can’t Make Everyone Happy

“I just want to know what the Bible says,” demanded Gail, a student in my women’s weekly Bible class. As I (Sue) descended the platform, she was on me, nose to nose. My back pressed to the wall, I felt silly in my costume, sprayed-on grey hair, and granny make-up. For seven weeks I lectured, pulling my main points straight from the text. But for the finale, I dressed the part of a character from a story and illustrated the message with a dramatic presentation. The women seemed to love the unique lesson, all except Gail.

“I just want to know what the Bible says,” demanded Gail, a student in my women’s weekly Bible class. As I (Sue) descended the platform, she was on me, nose to nose. My back pressed to the wall, I felt silly in my costume, sprayed-on grey hair, and granny make-up. For seven weeks I lectured, pulling my main points straight from the text. But for the finale, I dressed the part of a character from a story and illustrated the message with a dramatic presentation. The women seemed to love the unique lesson, all except Gail.

    Her tirade lasted several minutes but I don’t remember specifics—just a tightness all over my body, a warmth that began small and then engulfed me in a wave of adrenalin and emotion. The room faded and I was left feeling alone and exposed. I wanted to slip away and hide, but a luscious lunch with small group leaders waited, a time to celebrate God’s work over the semester.  I let Gail ruin the celebration for me.   
    Crazy thoughts overwhelmed my thinking, even as I made polite conversation over lunch. I am a Bible teacher. Can’t I try something creative and fun occasionally? I bet I spent twenty hours working on that lesson and a lot more if you consider I had to learn how to apply stage make-up and look all over town for grey hair spray. She has no idea. And hey, I’m not paid a penny and I took more time away from David and the kids this week than usual. Does she appreciate the sacrifice? noooo. . . I bet she has never taught anything. What does she know? I’m glad the semester is over and I hope she never comes back. I don’t want to see her in the audience again—or anywhere else.
    A rather extreme reaction, don’t you think, but honest. Gail was my first critic. Now thirty years later, as I reflect back, I’m embarrassed by my intense and immature reaction. How did you react the first time someone criticized you? I have interviewed many women who grieve over their responses to personal attacks. They allowed their emotions to overwhelm them, as I did, and responded poorly. Why do you think many women  fail to react biblically and wisely when personally attacked or involved in a conflict?

 

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Sue Edwards

Dr. Edwards is Assistant Professor of Christian Education (Specialization: Women's Studies) at Dallas Theological Seminary and holds degrees from Trinity University, DTS, and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. She is the author of New Doors in Ministry to Women, A Fresh Model for Transforming Your Church, Campus, or Mission Field and Women's Retreats, A Creative Planning Guide. She has 30 years experience in Bible teaching, directing women's ministry, retreat and conference speaking, training teams and teachers, and writing curriculum. Married to David for 34 years, she especially enjoys extended family gatherings and romping with her four grandchildren.