Saturday, September 20, 2008
I love to grow things. I love teaching. I love pastoring. It's interesting how much all three have in common. Primarily I realize I have very little control over the outcome. I can nurture, I can provide the right environment (soil/classroom instruction, worship), but the result depends on the roots.
The first two weeks of school one of the boys (age 14) came in "gang wear" every day. His shoes were untied, he had a cap turned backwards, his shirt hung out and his pants, at least 5 sizes to large, were hanging down halfway over his butt. His clothing was an expression of his attitude. During the day he threatened to punch me several times. He refused to work...and then laughed while glancing at the other older boys hoping to get their approval of his rebellion.
God's timing is perfect. In the midst of this struggle at school, I was studying the concept of abiding in Jesus (John 15: 1-8).
"Abide" is an old fashioned word. In fact, my Bible uses "remain joined to me". Jesus invites us to be joined to him. What an amazing statement of grace that we, as imperfect as we are, can be joined to God. My sister explained that this joining is like being grafted, the weaker plant to the one with the roots, so that the weaker plant can draw nourishment and strength from the root. Jesus invites us to abide in him. When we abide in him we bear fruit, give glory to the father, and show that we are his disciples. (John 15:8)
What is the root that is sustaining my pseudo-gang member student? Approval? Popularity? Rebellion?
He and I talked a lot this week. I asked him if this behavior was making him happy? Was he becoming more popular? Was it working? What was the outcome he wanted? And I prayed for him. Angelica and I prayed for him. I talked to his mother. I hate to talk to the parents with "concerns" about their children. She shook her finger at the boy and walked away. He's deaf, she's hearing. It's hard to communicate. He does what he wants. She can't control him. Sigh...now what?
Angelica and I prayed some more. School is over at 2:45, but he stuck around. He sat at his desk, looking sad and reflective while Angelica and I cleaned up and prepared for the next day. At 4:00 we were ready to close the windows and go home. He stood up, and came to me with a hug and said, "I'm sorry." We hugged, I told him I forgive him, and told him to choose Jesus because all the other stuff is just temporary.
The next day, Thursday, he came to school in his school uniform, shirt tucked in, with a belt, hair combed (not spiked) and shoes tied. He was even smiling. It's was a huge change. I thought we would be fighting the attitude battle all year.
The following day, Friday, he was smiling again and cooperative. He even joined me after school to shop for groceries and carry my bags. (!!!). Someone asked him why he was grocery shopping with me and he just shrugged. I think it is about abiding. When we abide with Jesus we draw nourishment from the True Vine. There's no substitute. Jesus says, "Come, be joined to me." It's not just "something to do" but our source of life. This young man, through the Spirit who touched his heart, got a taste of abiding with Jesus and wanted to hang on to it. I hope he does.
May God give you grace and peace,