Recently, a Bible passage in 2 Samuel disturbed me. Uzzah’s brief appearance in the Bible ended terribly. It’s difficult since I would have done exactly what Uzzah did! He tried to help.
“Then David and all the people who were with him set out for Baala of Judah to bring up from there the ark of God … The ark of God was placed on a new cart and taken away from the house of Abinadab. Uzzah and Ahio, sons of Abinadab, guided the cart, with Ahio walking before it …
When they came to the threshing floor of Nodan, Uzzah reached out his hand to the ark of God and steadied it, for the oxen were making it tip. But the Lord was angry with Uzzah; God struck him on that spot, and he died there before God. David was disturbed because God had vented his anger on Uzzah,” 2 Samuel 6: 2-9
Whaaaat?! Uzzah died trying to help? Why?!
Uzzah’s story reminded me of an early, painful memory. Although hard, obviously not as severe as Uzzah’s.
At 5-years-old, I happily headed to kindergarten. I was so ready for school. I knew my teacher would welcome my support.
Miss Bitchy (yep, I changed her name!) was an angry teacher. As hard as I try, I cannot recall one instance in kindergarten when she smiled. She terrified kids.
My plan formed slowly. I existed to be the answer to her exhausted prayers. I mustered the courage to ask to give out lukewarm milk at snack time. Next, I bravely volunteered to distribute worksheets, crayons, scissors, glue. Kindergarten stuff.
Warm fuzzies from Miss Bitchy didn’t exist. She allowed me to help a few times a week. She informed my mom how very helpful I could be – translate – a pain in her ass. My mom took the hint. She told me to chill out. I didn’t understand. I was devastated. I needed a new plan.
I excelled at printing letters. I practiced a lot – did I mention a bit of OCD?
Writing lessons consisted of Miss Bitchy directing us to print our name at the top of the page, FIRST. Next, trace the dashed lined letters; then try on your own. The usual kindergarten stuff. I whipped through my page at lightning speed. I saw kids struggling and helped them. ‘Helping’ meant I wrote their letters for them.
It seemed Miss Bitchy loved when kids messed up. She belittled them until they cried. Punishment consisted of ear-tugging while directing one’s face toward a critical error. The pain and reprimand made it perfectly clear you screwed up. Once you burst into tears she happily moved on. I witnessed this lesson many times. It never happened to me.
This particular day, I sat at a table with several kids. We had mastered our printing skills – except one girl. Sally just could not learn an ‘S’ to save her little life. She never really moved on to learn the ‘A – L – L – Y’ in the rest of her name.
She sat directly across from me. I glanced at her paper. She hadn’t written anything – not even attempted. Our eyes met and tears rose in hers. A kid across the room began to wail. Sally became hysterical.
Sally’s snot dripped onto the thin paper. I grew terrified too. I tried to get her attention, but she had her head on the table. I finally kicked her with my black patent shoe. She jerked her head up.
Petrified Miss Bitchy would see me, I motioned for Sally to give me her paper. She flashed me a puzzled look. I motioned again. Her little light bulb went on and she flung the sopping mess of goo toward me. As Sally continued sobbing, I deftly wrote her entire name across the top of the slimy paper. I flung it across the table. She looked at her name, shyly smiled and laid her head on the table.
Miss Bitchy rounded our end of the table. She so wanted to ear-tug Sally. Next, Miss Bitchy bent at the waist and peered at Sally’s paper.
Looking each of us in the eye, we tried to act 5-year-old nonchalant. We probably looked terrified. Miss Bitchy knew something was up.
She paused. For a moment, I thought we were in the clear. Miss Bitchy stood to her full height. I swear she must have been 10 feet tall. I feared what was about to happen to Sally. Then the most shocking event in my short life hit me – literally.
Miss Bitchy grabbed my arm; yanked me out of my chair and shook me. With her face inches from mine, she hollered, “What have you done! What did you DO?”
In a blur, I saw two boys dive under the table. Sally and another girl covered their eyes. Voiceless and hysterical I groaned, “Helping …”
She asked me again all the while shaking me like a rag doll.
“Sally – h-h-helping,” was all I could manage. By some miracle, she loosened her grip.
Inches from my face Miss Bitchy bellowed, “No, no, NOOO!” I will never forget the smell of her coffee breath and that horrible voice pounding through my head.
“You never, ever, ever do someone else’s work for them. You never ever cheat!” she shouted. It seemed to last for days.
I meekly nodded. The entire class stared at us in utter amazement. Sally even stopped sobbing. I heard the hum of the florescent lights above. It was the first time I experienced humiliation. I didn’t know what to do next. Then she hugged me!
Fear, anger and more fear – I didn’t know the words for everything I was feeling. I pushed away from her. No one hugged me except people who loved me. The sting of the reprimand lingered. I timidly returned to my chair, snotty and sobbing just like Sally. I wanted my mom.
Miss Bitchy relayed the incident to my mom – minus the yelling and yanking. Later at bedtime, Mom kissed my forehead. She explained how God does want us to help others. He has rules to guide us. When we ignore rules that’s when we get in trouble.
Exactly what happened to Uzzah. In his effort to help, he actually disobeyed God. Apparently, in the Old Testament, it was common knowledge God forbid anyone from touching the arc. Uzzah ignored or forgot that key rule. He thought he was helping – I thought I was helping.
As I grew I learned what arrogance meant, what bossy meant, what conceit meant – what humiliation meant. I realized that I wasn’t helping Sally that day. On her own merits, Sally did learn how to write her name without my 5-year-old arrogance to help her along.
Sally and I never spoke of the incident again.