Mrs. Blackstock, my fourth-grade teacher, once took our class out to the playground to play softball. She divided us into two teams and assigned each student to a position. I was the catcher. Charlie, the hulking schoolyard bully, took his turn at the plate. He struck out. In frustration (and probably embarrassment), he swung his bat at me.
No strikeout this time. If my belly had been a baseball, he would have hit a grandslam.
Mrs. Blackstock marched us to the office, explained what happened, and left us with the principal. The principal spoke with each of us separately.
When the principal met with me, she said she was going to punish both of us by taking away our lunch-hour recess for a week. I protested; I hadn’t hit Charlie (I was scared of him), I hadn’t even provoked him (I was scared of him), so why was I also being punished? It wasn’t fair!
The principal explained a new campaign to stop a recent upsurge in playground brawls: from now on she would punish both participants in the hopes that schoolyard fighting would cease.
My grade-school principal punished me for being hit by a bat, swung by a bully.
We are born with an instinctive desire for justice. Little children cry, “No fair!” before they can walk. The sign of societal maturity begins when cultures establish courts, institutions we can appeal to for just judgments.
But what recourse do we have when the institutions themselves are the perpetrators? To whom do we appeal when the appellate judges form a kangaroo court? It was the Nazi government that murdered Jews, and it was the Stalin regime that slaughtered its challengers.
Few of us face fascist administrations, but many of us encounter petty, bureaucratic tyrants. These are the nameless systems which refuse to “raise the poor from the dust and lift the needy from the ashes.” Like caricature-despots, they wield power without appeal. In the last month I’ve talked with:
- A friend’s mother who was fired from a Christian company by the HR department for doing exactly what her boss demanded (she didn’t know there was bad blood between her boss and the HR representative);
- A pastor who was removed from his pastorate by a denominational committee, with no explanation given and no opportunity for appeal;
- A woman whose child was taken from her by a guardian-ad-litem who had befriended her former husband.
What Do We Do?
Of course, Jesus may have faced the most infamous trial when his initial judges were in league with false witnesses, and when his final appeal, Pilate, chose political expediency over justice. And Jesus took that injustice for us, we who are never as innocent as we wish to believe.
Fortunately for me, Mrs. Blackstock believed in righteous justice, and she never withheld my lunch privileges. Unfortunately for her, the principal was livid.
Mrs Blackstock missed several days of school the following week. When she returned, I asked if she had been sick. She pulled me aside and asked me to keep a secret. The principal, she said, had suspended her for disobeying the principal’s judgment; Mrs. Blackstock’s suspension would be a lesson for other teachers.
I kept my word to Mrs. Blackstock, and I never told a soul. Not even my parents. Until today.
After Mrs. Blackstock’s took my judgment, I affectionately re-named her, Mrs. Back-stop. I don’t know if she ever heard me use her new nickname. But if she did, I hope she knew it was out of fondness. I hoped that she knew, that I knew,
That Mrs. Back-stop had my back.
P. S. God does not simply save us and leave us alone. He saves us for a purpose: to know him, to enter into a divine dialogue with the one who loves us. He wants us to learn to recognize his voice when we drive to work, wait in line, and engage in prayer.
To grow in that divine dialogue, please watch the video bel0w (What are we saved for?), and buy a copy of Hearing God in Conversation.
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Good story Sam. I had a similar thing happen but i was punished, not the bully.
Samuel C. Williamson
I think we all end up with stories like this. Our world is a broken world!
Sam, I know too well the tragedy of institutional injustice. However, I’m still waiting, some what impatiently, for the righteous judgement. Only a few weeks ago, at the deepest and darkest point in an 18 month journey I wrote this essay. I feel like you stopped short in your blog. Not because it wasn’t sufficient, only because I continue to hope that God radically and miraculously intervenes.
Tuesday February 20, 2018 in a Palm Beach County courtroom a magnificent miscarriage of justice was perpetrated against a little girl. Our hopeful granddaughter, Rebecca!
Rebecca was awarded a childhood that one should not wish on their most hated enemy. Poverty and fatherlessness. Two of the worst conditions a child could suffer. Our little girl faces the possibilities of poor grades, poor self image, a lack of protection and instruction, teen pregnancy, delinquency, abduction into human trafficking, domestic violence and lifelong trauma. These horrors are exponentially compounded in her life due to those two factors. Poverty is not easily escaped but it is crippling. The greatest tragedy is that she will no longer have a daddy. We trust and have great hope that Abba, our heavenly Father will make himself know in this absence.
Awarded to a family that was orchestrated in back offices, by shady lawyers. Our culture constantly defines family as a unit created by love, not by biology. That ideal falls flat in a court of law. This new family is a maternal aunt, and two half sisters. One of which she lived with in our daughters home for 5 months, and the other was introduced at a visit which lasted 1 hour and which we surmise Rebecca has no recollection. The family which is going to mourn her removal, consist of a mom and dad, 2 sisters, 1 brother, 3 cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents and great-grandparents. Not to mention the array of friends who love Rebecca.
This miscarriage of justice falls on the callousness of those responsible for Rebecca’s protection and placement who failed to fight. Maybe themselves the victims of fatherlessness, trauma or abuse, or maybe they just succombed to passivity. Shame on them for not fighting for Rebecca, shame on them.
Rebecca will always be in our hearts and on our mind. This seperation is temporary. Your prayers did not go unanswered.
The psalmist wrote ” Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and “Ed Murphy” shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.
Yes, Rebecca God, MeeMaw, Papa, Nana and Oooohhh love you!
Samuel C. Williamson
My heart, and the heart of all these readers, goes out to you. We cannot imagine such hardship.
And yes, “Yea, though we walk through the valley of death, we will fear no evil, for he (his rod and staff) is with us.”
But … we still get scared.
Joann D Woodward
Hi Sam! How did I miss this blog? I appreciate your recognition of the existence of bureaucratic and even government/government agency injustice. I know it well personally and professionally, having worked for the State of Michigan for 18 years. I have learned to seek the Lord on His leading regarding if and how to deal with this level of injustice. I have experienced God miraculously coming through regarding personally seeking Him, and responding to His leading. I am very passionate regarding injustice in our world, but I am not the easily construed political progressive, due to this passion, but rather the opposite! There are not too many of us around! While I have learned not to get over whelmed by my personal awareness of high level injustice, and to seek God’s guidance on what is on HIS heart, and if I am to be His ambassador in certain circumstances, I honestly inform you, that there are situations I still am certain God has me in a certain place and at the right time…however, the barriers to resolve/remove injustice….only in a role that I can appropriate operate in….that addressing the injustice, including through significant intercession, at times seems to remain “immovable”. Please know that, given my personal experience, including professional, educational levels, and interface with fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, this, (on a human level) can be very disheartening, AND there are many fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, who find themselves in similar situations. At times I wonder if it would be God’s will for potential special intercessor prayer teams to develop that particularly intercede in specific areas of injustice, particularly for situations that are facing our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. Please know that there exists a reality, whether on a legal basis or not, that a resolve or removal of injustice in a particular situation, can and does have potentially HUGE precedence, whereby the ripples of water that are created upon a stone successfully being thrown in the water, are tremendously functionally influential!