Back to School: Making the Routine Count

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you, Lord, my rock and my redeemer. (Psalms 19:13-14 NLT)

My son Jordan had an important Science Fair project to complete over a period of a few weeks.  He was running tests to find out which consumable product was more damaging to the teeth. He put each tooth into a different solution such as Sprite, Coca-Cola, lemon juice and canned Iced Tea, and each week made careful notes about the visible changes in the deterioration. We drove all over town searching for shark’s teeth to be used in the experiment, because they were the most attainable and a good substitute for human teeth.

You’d think shark’s teeth would be readily available in Florida but, most sharks’ teeth are treated with a coating or petrified, and consequently are unable to be used in this type of research. After a long and exhausting hunt, driving to every little shell shop and sea creature boutique we could locate, we finally found the uncompromised, sharp incisors and Jordan went to work on his project.

I want you to picture clear plastic cups set up on the kitchen counter, each with a tooth floating in various colors of liquids. I’d had a full summer of reprieve from school projects and wasn’t particularly happy about starting the assignments again.  Over the days and weeks, the project began to stink, and I was having a hard time making dinner each night with smelly shark’s teeth on my counter. By this time, it was hard to tell what Jordan had poured into those cups!

Each time I inquired of him how the assignment was coming along, he’d say, “Don’t worry Mom, I’ve got it all under control.”  Since that was usually true and Jordan wasn’t the kind of kid to be irresponsible, I gave the Science Fair project little thought, doing my best to just ignore the aroma.

The days sped by and before we both knew it, the time was upon us and we had to lug his project board, research logs and the teeth in question to the school. I was confident Jordan would obtain a good grade on his endeavor, because he usually received high marks for his work.  Imagine my surprise when he walked through the door at the end of the day, forlorn and despondent and announced he’d received a ‘C’ on his Science Fair task.

My first reaction, like other mothers reading this story, was to pick up the phone and make some heated inquiries into the reason for his low grade. I was ready to put on my boxing gloves and take someone out in the first round. (And to think, I was forced to smell that odor for weeks—how could he possibly have scored so low?)

Fortunately, I choose the wiser road and sat down with my son to discuss the issue at hand.

“Mr. Taylor didn’t explain what he wanted, Mom.  He wasn’t clear with us on the requirements of the project.  Steve and Alex and Jim needed me to help them, so I really didn’t have the time to work on mine as much as I wanted to. Besides, Mom, you know I haven’t felt so good lately.”

I listened to his explanation and then stood and walked over to his black and red backpack.  After a few moments of searching through broken pencils, wadded up paper and half-used erasers, I pulled out the instruction sheet for the Science Fair Project.  Wouldn’t you know it–everything that was required for an ‘A’ was clearly outlined on the assignment list.

I sat down next to Jordan and handed him the paper.  He looked at it, then looked at me and the expression on his face was priceless–much like a kid caught with his hand in the cookie jar.

He was to take pictures each week of the visible changes in the teeth, and record everything in detail in a log.  Also, he was to be prepared to give an informed and educated speech before his instructors about the project, the process and the outcome.  Because he didn’t follow the rules carefully, his grade was lowered.  There wasn’t an excuse in the world that he could offer to make up for his carelessness.

Ever since Adam blamed Eve for eating the apple, lack of responsibility has been a pandemic in our culture. We have all looked for a scapegoat for our bad behavior.  Isn’t it always someone else’s fault when we make a mistake?  It’s incredibly tempting to point the finger in a direction away from us, whenever our actions are brought into question.  I’ve done it.  You’ve done it.  Who hasn’t?

Legitimately, our actions can be the result of someone else’s choice, but nevertheless, we are always responsible for what we choose to say and do, regardless of the deeds of those around us.  We are accountable to those we interact with, to the laws of the land, and most importantly, to God.

I’ve learned over the years, that it’s far better to simply stand up and take the hit for my poor choices than to try to elude reprimand.  I want my son to understand that he is accountable for the path he chooses to walk.  Every choice he makes has a consequence for either good or evil.  Nothing is hidden from God, and I really believe when we admit our mistakes and take the high road instead of the road most traveled, our Father is proud of us. Developing a routine of integrity is a course well chosen.

Jordan never spoke a word of regret or remorse over his actions, but the next time a project was due, I noticed the assignment sheet was right next to the computer, adhered to with careful calculation.  Now, what more could a mother want than to see her child decide to live a life pleasing to both God and family.  This is a routine well chosen!

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