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Rembrandt, Jeremiah lamenting over the destruction of Jerusalem [detail].

A weary prophet

Jeremiah's vexing task

"Under the weight of your hand I sat alone." (Jer. 15:17)

When the yellow buses roll each fall, I remember my elementary schoolteachers and say a prayer of thanksgiving, recalling each name and face. Mildred Chaffin, my fifth-grade teacher at Elbert S. Long School in Chattanooga, was a major player in shaping my early perceptions of God. You did not fool around in Mrs. Chaffin's class. You did not laugh or ever horse around, and even on the playground only guardedly so. It took only a direct gaze from her to address any hint of disorder or rebellion—a gaze I was certain could crack granite. We sat in robotic rows and hardly ever moved from fear of her, sharpening pencils and moving through the lunch line in timed precision like a small platoon of marines. I would rather have wet my pants than ask to go to the bathroom at an unscheduled time. (Woe to the poor child who accidentally passed gas during geography.)

 

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