"Mummy she wouldn't let us out until we did it"
This was what my daughter told me when she got off the school bus and I could see that she was still very upset.
Linda was only in Kindergarten in a school in Delaware, where we had moved to live for a few years because of my husband's work.
Now we had come from Northern Ireland and there are no snakes in Northern Ireland (but actually nothing to do with St. Patrick). So the only time we needed to come into close proximity with one is when we saw one in the Zoo.
I have never liked snakes so even when we would go to the Zoo I quite often would just pass by the area with the snakes and my kids had never really complained about this because they were not keen on snakes either.
Well there we were in Delaware in 1993 knowing that there were snakes in America but hoping that they were confined to the hotter, drier mid & south areas of the country.
One day while we were walking with a friend and her children in a large parkland I saw a snake on a rock. I didn't say a thing but just hurried on by with all the children.
Philadelphia Zoo had snakes but same as before we just didn't bother to go near them.
But never did I think that my daughter's school would be the place where she was going to be confronted with a snake.
Never did I imagine that in her school she would be forced to touch a snake!
Never did I imagine that her Kindergarten teacher was going to be so nasty as to tell the children that they would not be allowed out of the library until they petted this snake.
It was not even a pet in the school but had been brought in by the librarian.
Who would ever think that they were sending their child off to school one day to be told they would not get out of school to get the school bus home without petting a snake. A child that age would believe what they are told and would worry about how else they would manage to get home.
Linda was like me she hated the sight of snakes and the thought of a snake being near her but the teacher didn't care about that.
Bullying can be done by teachers as well as by pupils and this was bullying.
Touching the snake did not physically harm Linda but it did emotionally for a while.
Thankfully we are not a family to make something like this grow and fester in a child's mind by going over and over the incident or by showing her how really annoyed we were that this had happened because children do not need to know every feeling we have or action we take over things as a protection for them.
Unfortunately we can all go through forms of this kind of thing where people, through some means of manipulation, pressure us into doing things that we really don't want to do. That we are really uncomfortable doing. That is just not a right fit with us.
Those things will not harm us physically but they do harm us emotionally and sometimes spiritually too.
God made us all and He made us each as a unique person.
Our thoughts each day are different from others thoughts.
Our feelings are different from others.
Our needs, our gifts, our physical abilities are all different.
What one person does not mind dealing with, the rest of us may cringe from, like Linda and the snake.
God has not made us as we are to then expect us to do a job for Him that we are not suited to.
Sometimes God will bring us to deal with something we are not so keen on but He is there to help us through that and if He is bringing us to deal with it He will not do it through the bullying tactics of another person.
We do not have to listen to people if they try to claim it is something God wants us to do - if God wants you to do something He will confirm that in your heart.
We do not have to listen to people if they try to persuade you that we need to do it because there is no one else to do it - remember if God wants you to do it He may use someone to cause you to know of an opportunity, but He will still confirm it in your heart.
I want to
As Linda grew up she learned to say No when something was not right for her, to stand up against the manipulation of others.
However we also cannot take the "say No" idea to mean that we don't have to do anything and that we can just say No to God as He stirs us toward His service.
We can learn to say No
when it is a man-made opportunity and Yes when it is a God made opportunity.
We can learn to say No
when people think they know best and Yes when we know that God knows best.
We can learn to say No
when others try to manipulate us into the wrong road for us.
We can learn to say YES
when God confirms in our hearts that this is something He is preparing us for.
I don't want to pet a snake, do you?