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Wednesday, October 30, 2013

School Problems

Autumn was settling in.  It was dark by the time my car rolled into the driveway.  Getting a little chillier.  I stepped into the front room and found James heading into the office with his homework in his hand.  "Hey, pal!  How was your day?"  Tessa looked up from a drawing she was working on, and said,  "Someone stole James' lock at school."

I couldn't believe my ears.  It was difficult for me to understand that crime existed in James' school, much less that it had touched my son.  And it was a cool lock.  A combination lock that was set to letters, not numbers.  James had come up with a distinctive word.

"What?" I asked.  James stood there with his papers.  "Someone stole my lock." he said, "It wasn't there when I stopped by my locker this morning."

It still seemed out of sorts that that kind of thing could still take place at Middle School.  Both Annie and I agreed to have our children attend public school rather than home-schooling them.  We understood the issues surrounding why parents preferred home-schooling: distrust in the school system, more in-depth learning one-on-one with a parent, un-Christian concepts being taught in the public sector.  But we also saw it as an opportunity for our children to be lights for Jesus to others, and for them to connect with other children.  Plus, we could provide the teaching to counter what was learned in school if anything was taught that was contrary to what we believed.

"Did you tell the principal, yet?" I asked.  James shook his head.  "Well, tomorrow you can stop by the office and file a report with the secretary."   I hung up my jacket and we all headed to the table for dinner.

Later that night, James and I talked about the incident while he took a break from his homework.  "So, do you think someone watched you while you opened your lock one day?"

"Maybe." he replied.

"Tough thing, having someone steal from you, huh?" I asked.  James nodded his head.  We were sitting on the couch, hanging out.  "You know, that's a hard thing.  Stealing is against one of the ten commandments.  Plus, it's difficult to forgive someone over stealing something when you don't know who that person is."   James nodded.  "But the bible says, 'Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.'  And even if you never find out who did this, you'll have to forgive them from a distance.  Shall we pray over it?"

"Sure."

We prayed together, then James stood up and went to finish his homework.  I started to remember a time back in college when a Holocaust survivor had come to speak.  She was a Messianic Jew who had witnessed a Nazi soldier shooting a fellow Jew in the face in a concentration camp.  She carried so much hate for so long.  She shared how she was at a previous speaking engagement and a man from the audience came up to her afterwards.  He identified himself as that soldier.  Hatred and anger welled up within the speaker.  She knew that God wanted her to forgive him, but didn't know how.  So she called out to God and asked Him to pour out his love into her heart so she would be able to forgive, and God did.  The former Nazi walked away forgiven.

Tessa came up behind me with her brush and started shaping my hair.

"Ow." I said.

"Sorry.  I'm trying to cover your bald spot."  Brush....brush...brush.  "I have most of it covered, but it's a little too big."

"Ow.  Thanks very much."

Giggle.  "Kristine threw a ball in my face today."

"What?! Ow!"  I had turned around and her brush pulled against my hair.  Oh my gosh, I thought.  Both of my children had something happen to them in the same day!

"Dad.  I'm not finished with your hair."  I turned back and started fuming silently.  She continued. "We were at recess, and the ball hit me in the face."

"Did she do it on purpose?"  This wasn't the first time my children had to deal with bullies.

"No.  It was an accident.  But she said, 'Well, next time don't get in the way, Tessa!'"

This was a little different.  Whereas James dealt with an unknown, Tessa had to face one of her classmates every day.  "Did she apologize?" I asked.

"No."

"Well, it's hard when the person isn't sorry.  And if I remember right, this isn't the only time you've had difficulty with Kristina, am I right?"

"Kristine, dad.  Uh-huh".

"I'm sorry.  It doesn't sound like she was very sorry about hitting you.  You can't control how people feel or act.  But you can control how you react.  Do you remember what Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount?"

"Love your enemies and do good to those who hurt you."

"Tough to do sometimes, isn't it?"

"Uh-huh.  But she's always giving me bad looks when I look at her and keeps correcting me when we're in small groups."

"I'm sorry, sweetie.  It's hard when someone keeps being mean to us over and over.  But in the times we have trouble forgiving, we can call on God and ask for help.  'God, I'm having trouble forgiving Kristine.  Please help me," or "God, I just want to yell at Kristine. Help me to tell her to stop being mean but to be gentle and loving at the same time."  We talked about different ways she could react to Kristine the next time she was mean.  Tessa took rubber band and tied a pigtail on top of my head.  "Ow."  I think I was able to count the number of hairs that she pulled out in the process.  She peaked around to the front and started laughing.

We're so human.  And sometimes when we're hurt, or someone strikes out against us, the emotions and feelings take over and we want to hurt and strike out in kind. Or huddle in a corner and fall into darkness.  But God's love and light is greater.  He's stronger than our pain and much more forgiving than we are.  And the carpenter-preacher who said, "Follow me" is able to guide us in the way of love and forgiveness.

Trust in Him.  He won't let you down.


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