Christian Living Stories: Changed Lives

My husband and I were once privileged to share a meal with Jaime Escalante, the math teacher who inspired underachievers at an East Los Angeles high school to score high marks in calculus in the early 1980s. This impressive accomplishment was documented in the 1988 movie Stand and Deliver starring Edward James Olmos.

Escalante shared the following story about a couple of his former students, both named Johnny.

The first Johnny was a top-notch pupil. He turned in all of his homework on time, made excellent grades, was respectful and never disruptive. You might say he was a model ­student—the kind all teachers dream of having in class.

The second Johnny was annoying and for want of a better word, a “pain” Escalante couldn’t get rid of with aspirin. This Johnny rarely turned in homework, was seldom on time, made below-average grades, was not all that respectful and quite disruptive.

When it came time for the first parent/teacher conference of the year, Johnny’s father and mother were surprised by the glowing report Mr. Escalante gave regarding their son’s progress: “I must say that Johnny is the type of student every teacher dreams of having in class. I really enjoy having him as a student.” The parents were pleased and rushed home to tell Johnny how much Mr. Escalante liked him.

About half an hour later the other Johnny’s parents came in. It was then Escalante discovered he had gotten the two Johnnys mixed up. That glowing report was given for the wrong boy.

The next day disruptive Johnny came up to Mr. Escalante and said, “My parents told me what you said about me.” And from that day forward, Johnny changed. Escalante never had a bit of trouble with him again. He was responsive, attentive and eager to learn. Something happens when children feel validated, loved, and appreciated!

Guess what? The same applies for adults. In fact, that is one reason Christ came to earth. He wants us to know we no longer need to feel down-trodden, unloved and unwanted. We don’t have to be a disruptive “pain” to get everyone’s attention or build our self-esteem. When we let Christ into our lives, our identity and our perception of ourselves changes—if we believe what he says about us.

Christ tells us that we are loved (John 3:16), forgiven (Colossians 3:13), chosen (Ephesians 1:11), accepted (Romans 15:7) and not condemned (Romans 8:1). We are justified (Romans 5:1), righteous (2 Corinthians 5:21) and blessed (Ephesians 1:3). We are God’s children (John 1:12) and his heirs (Galatians 4:7). The list goes on and on.

All these gifts are freely given to us. Of course, we have to believe, just like Escalante’s student. Once Johnny believed the good things his teacher said about him, his life changed. If we believe what God says about us, our lives can be changed too.

Author: Barbara Dahlgren


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