I spent 10 years of my professional career teaching and being a principal at a school for students with emotional disabilities. If you’ve had me for a professor, you’ve heard many of my stories about my time at this school and how God landed me there with a growing heart for the wounded and broken soul.
One of the hardest realizations for me was discovering that such brokenness in these children was very hard to repair and heal. I hear every now and then about my students out there, what they’re up to now, or I hear about them in the news. A few students are in prison for murder, one for rape, and others that are just in and out of trouble with the law. I’m certain a couple of them were able to do ok in life, though I don’t hear so much from them.
Lately I’ve been reflecting on my days at the school, how I would endure the abuse from these students, day in and day out, with the hopes that it would matter, or that I will feel that I accomplished something… I’d see signs of hope, a glimmer that they are beginning to see the light, and then they’d slip away from me just as quickly. I had students that were difficult to love because of their lack of remorse. There were even times when I could look in their eyes and see the evil that haunted them and then haunting me. I would begin to lose faith, facing “burnout”… believing that I couldn’t continue on this path with them.
But in my walk with God and in my Bible studies, I encountered an amazing realization - I was an immature Christian. God wasn’t intending for me to help these kids. These kids were there to help me. To remind me of how wonderful my life was, what it means to have a Christian upbringing, home and education, and what it means to have a loving husband and healthy relationships. I began to see that I could endure just a little bit of pain, for all the pain that they endured, to show them the love of Christ. As I matured in my walk it took me a step further - it also forced me to reflect on my own brokenness, realizing that I shared the same hurts and pains of all humanity, and that I was and am in as much need of God’s grace as they were. Then even a step further in becoming as an “adult” in my faith, “putting away childish things” – I learned how I was also there to endure the many trials to refine my faith and walk with Jesus and with his love.
All of my students are now adults. Many have not changed. They continue to take on life like toddlers, looking for quick “highs”, fulfilling their own selfish needs without regards for others, shutting down, and throwing temper tantrums the same way they did a decade ago and often with little remorse. For some reason, adults with behavior and mental health issues are much harder to contend with for me. I’m sure all of us can reflect on people in our lives that cause us to be angry and frustrated with the fact that they just can’t see the light. I sometimes find myself frustrated and angry and facing burnout all over again, just as I did years ago. So today, I’m taking this time to reflect, trying to understand and forgive evil and brokenness, realizing once again, it’s very much about God trying to refine me and not so much about them. And this is our faith and walk in a broken and lost world…