Not long ago I had a parent come in and thank me for something I did for her daughter who is in my class. Her daughter had an assignment with all the other students, and part of the assignment required each student to stand up in front of the class and give a brief report. This student is extremely shy and had already received a zero when she refused to give an oral report. After this happened a couple of times, I talked to her about it. I managed to get her to agree that if I kicked out all the boys in the class, the next time she had an oral report, she would do it. The thought of this made her smile and I had hopes it would work.
A week or two later, the students were giving an oral report on current events and her turn came. Sure enough she refused, then I remembered our ‘deal’. I told all the boys to get out and to stand outside. The boys were confused, but also pleased at the chance to get out of class for a few moments. Sure enough, once all the boys were gone, she was able to do her oral report. With that success under our belt, I told her that next time we would leave just one boy in the class and she could pick who it was. I explained further that each time after that, we will add in one more boy and she can pick who gets to stay in.
Her mother heard about this from her daughter and tearfully came in one morning to thank me for doing something that no one had ever done for her personally, or for her daughter. She explained that as a young girl, and still as an adult, she was painfully shy and it deeply touched her that I would do such a thing for her daughter, who struggles with the same deep fear of speaking in front of others.
Honestly, I had not really given it much thought. When I came up with the idea, I had no idea how it would profoundly touch the lives of my student and her mother. I was blessed by the fact that she came in and shared with me her story and the struggles that she and her daughter have.
I teach for a living, but more importantly I am in a position to touch lives. It has always been a second nature for me to care about my students and enjoy a relationship with them, to impact them in a positive way with a male figure many of them don’t have in their lives.
The area I teach is rural and poor, with many of my students lacking a father figure, or any kind of positive male role model, to influence their lives. Don’t mistake my accolades in being a positive role model as egotistical. I am well aware of my short comings, you only need to ask my wife, children, or family members to find a laundry list of faults. Nevertheless, despite my fractures, over the years God has confirmed to me that I am doing what he wants me to do. It is not always easy, but it can be deeply satisfying knowing what I do is pleasing to the Lord. I have never experienced that before in other jobs, and the only other time I have had that feeling was most recently in my study of apologetics and this blog.
Pastor John Ortberg said, “If we really want to help someone grow, we will have to help them in a way that fits their wiring. Our great model for this is God himself, for he always knows just what each person needs. He had Abraham take a walk, Elijah take a nap, Joshua take a lap, and Adam take the rap. He gave Moses a forty-year time out, he gave David a harp and a dance, and he gave Paul a pen and a scroll. He wrestled with Jacob, argued with Job, whispered to Elijah, warned Cain and comforted Hagar. He gave Aaron an altar, Miriam a song, Gideon a fleece, Peter a name, and Elisha a mantle. Jesus was stern with the rich young ruler, tender with the woman caught in adultery, patient with the disciples, blistering with the scribes, gentle with the children, and gracious with the thief on the cross. 1
I came to the conclusion once, that I was done teaching, but you can see for yourself God never grows people the same way. Moses was raised in a palace to serve in the desert. Joseph was raised in the desert to serve in a palace. I heard someone say that the shortest path is often not the best because they may miss out on opportunity’s for growth, allowing God to do a work in their life. Rock climbers often have to ‘traverse’ a part of a climb to reach a way up. Traversing is never the first choice as it adds to the length of a climb, but it is often necessary to reach the peak climbers strive for.
There was once a little boy who wanted a bicycle and he was not sure how best he should pray for such a thing. He was watching a traditional service and saw how the minister prayed. So the little boy prayed the same prayer. “Lord if it is your sovereign will, and in your eternal plan that I can get a bicycle, in your time, and according to your will, would you please get me one. I pray amen.”
A few days later when nothing transpired, he was watching another pastor on T.V. The little boy tried another prayer. “Lord, I declare my need for a bicycle! I want a nice blue bike, and that it be delivered to my house within 24 hours. I lay claim to it. Amen!”
Again, after a few days without any results, he began to think really hard on the matter. Finally, his mother saw him take a small statue of the Virgin Mary they had in the living room. She was busy, and had not given it much thought till later that night when the boy was in bed. She looked around for the statue, but could not find it. When she returned to the living room, she noticed a note had been placed where the statue had been. The note began, “Jesus, if you want to see your mother again…”
It is a funny story, but many of us, myself included, have gone to great lengths to get something we wanted, and it turned out to be nothing we needed. What lengths do we go to avoid traversing across the cliff when it could be God’s plan for us to take the long road and be blessed by his mercy and grace? What lengths do we go to help our adult children through difficult times when they should be traversing, and we are pulling them straight up the cliff? I have asked myself this many times over the years, and still do concerning friends, family, and students.
Some years back, we knew a young man who could not hold a steady job. Time and again we helped him out. Gave him some money, (I don’t loan money to anyone). Allowed him to stay at our house, fed him, prayed with him. He just could never get his life together. I know others helped him too, but at some point you have to say I am sorry, we can’t continue to care for you. You need to stand on your own. It ended tragically when we finally heard he committed suicide. Did we do the right thing? Should we have pulled him over the cliff? Continued to care for him? Could our efforts to pull him up have caused some in my family to slip down the cliff? Some questions we will never know the answer to in this life.
In 2003, there was a study at Dartmouth Medical School concerning depression in children and adolescents. The finding coming from a secular source was nothing less than astounding. They found that, “…the human person is hardwired to connect. We need close attachments to other people, beginning with mothers and fathers and family and then the larger community we live in. Also, we are hardwired for meaning, born with a built-in capacity and drive to search for purpose and to reflect on life’s ultimate ends. If these two needs are not met, children cannot be expected to be healthy and develop.” 2
The young man I shared about above did not have meaning to his life. He was lacking purpose and did not have any kind of healthy relationship with his mother or father that I knew of. If you are reading this and have an opportunity to impact the life of a young person, I encourage you to take the time and do so. You may find a deep satisfying purpose that the Lord had in mind for you. You may be surprised that you can help handcraft disciples.
- Kinnaman, David. You Lost Me. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2011. Print
- McDowell, Sean. Apologetics for a New Generation. Eugene: Harvest House Publishers, 2009. Print.