We’re making progress

Only a first grader, he had been in multiple schools before being expelled from the last one. The comments that followed him to me were that they had never seen a child like him and didn’t know what to do with him. Before he set foot in my classroom, I began praying.

He was a simmer pot.

The little guy whose emotional lid was clamped so tight that when the heat got turned up, the lid blew. Regrettably, both of his parents were incarcerated so it’s no wonder that at the age of seven he had learned that adults were not to be trusted.

Defiant and angry, this wounded soul entered my classroom lashing out at anyone who dared enter his space. His outbursts were frequent, but slowly we began the work of building a relationship. Even though it sometimes seemed that his daily progress was at a snail’s pace, after four months I could say we that we had indeed made progress. However, this particular week I was reminded we were not done yet.

It was usually the little things that set him off and most often it centered around control. Having so little of it in his own life he found every opportunity to assert his control over someone else. This day he refused to cooperate in a small group of children. He was preventing anyone from taking a turn in the game being played by throwing the game cards up in the air. After an attempt to negotiate, I asked him to come sit at a table with me. Instead he crossed his arm, puckered his mouth and paced behind the table.

Soon he was kicking the chairs, then throwing them. It was at this point I draped my arms around him and asked him if he wanted to take a cool down break in the hallway. He refused and began flailing around, yelling, and punching. So with my arms still wrapped securely around him we headed out of the room toward the dean’s office. I’m sure we were quite a sight. I had him tucked up against me like a smuggled diamond while simultaneously avoiding being head-butted.

We ended up seated in a conference room in the main office. As we waited, I held him on my lap and spoke quiet, soothing things into the nape of his neck. And as I attempted to administer comfort, I suddenly got a clear picture of God doing the same thing for me. In the middle of all the chaos, I was seated in the lap of the Father. He was whispering the words into my own heart that I was voicing. “You are safe. It’s going to be all right. I’m not mad at you. I’m sorry you are hurting. I love you.” Eventually peace came to us both.

It occurred to me that I am not so unlike that little one. I get wounded by the world. There are days when I feel out of control and strike out in frustration. What a mystery it is that on those days the God of the universe is still concerned with me. That in that struggle He still chooses to He wrap His arms around me and tell me I am loved. And the by-product of that all-consuming-love is an amazing one. It produces a grateful heart in me that fuels my desire to try to love the unlovable. I’m not always successful. I fail and I fall down. Alot. Thankfully, He’s not done with me yet. But after a lifetime of relationship building I can say this – we’re making progress.

More Than Enough

Like many young couples starting out, money was tight. Our two meager teacher’s salaries covered our bills, but not much else. There wasn’t money for an expensive honeymoon or extravagant house, but we were happy.

A few years later when I resigned my position to stay home with our growing family, finances began to get even more creative. Three little ones born in the span of four years meant what little extra money we had now went for diapers and baby necessities. My husband was still teaching, coaching every sport imaginable and working another part-time job. The dreaded task of managing our household expenses fell to me. Every time I sat down to pay the bills I wondered if there would be enough money in our checking account to cover the ominous stack of envelopes staring me down from the table.

One day an unexpected bill arrived in our mailbox. Had I been a really good money manager I would have known it was coming. But since I had gotten the job of Chief Financial Officer more or less by default, that was not the case. Frankly, my financial management style was similar to the method I used for weighing myself. I took a deep breath, blew all the air out of my lungs and then closed my eyes. When I opened them, I squinted slightly in hopes of seeing a better number. However, no amount of squinting could take away the fact that we didn’t have the money to pay this bill.

Interestingly, my Bible study during this time revolved around the Sermon on the Mount. I had just recently read the words in the sixth chapter of Matthew recording where Jesus told the crowds not to worry because God knew about their needs and would provide for them. I took that to heart and began praying about that big bill for which I didn’t have money to pay. I told Jesus that I trusted him to provide for us in whatever way he saw fit. I decided not to worry, but to trust.

Later in an inspired spurt of organization I decided to clean off my desk. Due to the enormous amount of time it would normally take, it was a job I had been putting off. However, the urge was so strong I decided to tackle it.

Soon I was filing and sorting papers, feeling an immense sense of accomplishment as the desk top began to clear. Just as I was finishing, I noticed a piece of paper sticking out at an odd angle from beside the desk. In all the shuffling it must have fallen and become wedged in the small place between the wall and the desk. When I pulled it out I realized that it was a check. And it was written for an amount that would more than pay the unexpected bill. God knew my need and He had provided more than enough.

It reminded me of the miracle of the feeding of the five thousand. John recorded that the crowds had followed Jesus into the hills because of the signs he had performed. Knowing there was no physical way to feed this hungry throng Jesus displayed his miraculous love by multiplying a boy’s five small barley loaves and two fish. When everyone had eaten and was satisfied the leftovers were collected. Twelve baskets remained. Jesus didn’t provide the bare minimum. There was an abundance. He always provides more than enough.

Many years have passed. Challenges have come and gone, but I have never forgotten that very concrete example of God’s provision in my life. His answers have not always come in the physical sense. I have never found another check tucked away in a nook in the wall. But very often in my spirit He whispers words of comfort and hope. His provision is constant and never-failing and His provision is always more than enough.