As I child, I didn’t know many men who looked like Mr. McGowan. He was the gym teacher at Sunnyview Elementary School and it seemed like he was almost seven feet tall. Of course, he was much shorter than that. The illusion of remarkable height was probably made possible by his short, gym-teacher shorts (the ones with the big waist band and way too many pockets), his knee-high tube socks with 3 horizontal stripes at the top, and his extra-long torso covered with a skin-tight shirt. I half expected his shirt to explode open from the strain every time he demonstrated how to do a back-bend.
I remember him lining all of the kids in my class up in rows to begin our state-mandated time of exercise. He would demand silence and march back and forth like he was a general preparing his wide-eyed pre-pubescent soldiers to storm and seize control of the rest of the school. I’m not sure how far we would have gotten, but I know we could have taken control of the library before the cross-eyed librarian knew what hit her. The cafeteria would have been our Waterloo.
As he peered at us, I often felt like I was being watched by a bird of prey. His nose was elongated and beak-like; sort of like the tip of it was afraid of the rest of his face and was trying to get as far away as possible. His eyes were also eagle-ish and I am sure that there is no life on other planets; if there were Mr. McGowan would have seen them from here and alerted the proper authorities.
Now, I am sure that Mr. McGowan enjoyed his job and took seriously the responsibility he had of helping us live better, healthier, and longer. He was successful at holding our attention and, for the most part, making the class fun. I really did like him. However, there were times when I felt like choking him with his own whistle-string.
In my opinion, there are better ways to motivate a child than by calling him a pansy. Mr. McGowan disagreed.
At the time, I didn’t know that a pansy was a flower. All I knew was that it was what Mr. McGowan called students when they couldn’t do all of their push-ups or sit-ups or when they couldn’t run as long as the others. And it sounded far worse than calling someone a sissy.
Most of the time, it really did not bother me. I knew what he was trying to do and I respected him for pushing us to do the best that we could do. It did bother me, though, in those times when I did do the best that I could do and he called me a pansy anyway. Being a kid with a low self-esteem to begin with didn’t help.
Since that time, I have been called things far worse than pansy. I know that you have, too. In fact, what people have said and done to you may be far worse than anything anyone has ever said or done to me. We live in a world filled with evil and we can’t always be protected from it.
But we can control our reaction to it by not allowing the words and deeds of others to define who we are.
We are not something just because we are labeled a certain way or treated a certain way. You are not trash, stupid, dumb, ugly, retarded, a whore, useless, arrogant, ridiculous, hateful, mean, fat, brainless, meaningless, slow, gross, hideous, repugnant, scum, filthy, or anything else just because someone calls you that or treats you that way.
You are a creation of Almighty God. You are one for whom Jesus died. You have a reason to exist.
And if you have accepted the gift of salvation, you have the Holy Spirit dwelling within you.
It’s amazing what people believe about themselves. It’s astonishing that we allow other people to have so much control over our emotions. It’s sad that so many suffer without knowing the truth.
I am not a pansy.
You are not worthless.
We have a great God who designed us as we are and loves us completely.
When I was a child and feeling down, I would wait until my mother sat down and work my way onto her lap. I knew if I made it there that I would be comforted, loved, and encouraged.
It is the same with God. As we come to Him, we can know that He will never turn us away and in His arms we will always find perfect comfort, unending love, and divine encouragement.
Maybe you need to stop whatever you are doing and rest in His lap for a few moments. There is nothing quite like it.
(Were you ever called a pansy? What names were you called? Let your voice be heard.)