Friday, May 23, 2014

A Rose By Any Other Name

Two hundred ninety five days. Not completely, but mostly. Take away holidays, breaks, and ice storms, and the number lessens. The number, perhaps, but not the transformation. The change has been subtle, but real nonetheless. After 1,825 days of living, our youngest son embarked on a new adventure in life. Looking back on the experience, I can call it an adventure, but in the beginning, "adventure" was not the word I would have chosen.

Moving to a new town at this stage of our lives was perhaps the most difficult experience our family has ever undertaken. We left many dear friends behind, and we met some new friends. During the process, relationships died. Some were physical deaths. My father, my wife's grandmother, and a very dear friend died within the same ten day period. Others were emotional deaths. Friends we thought we would have forever dropped from our lives, some of which are still lost to this day. We left with few goodbyes and landed in a place in a part of the country that is familiar yet not.

One of the biggest adjustments for our family was public education. Prior to moving we schooled our children at home. Many who called themselves friends made comments over the years about homeschooling. Most of them were the kinds of snide remarks that church people make when they are trying to get a dig in without being openly cruel. They forget that sometimes people can see through the facade. We kept the faith and pressed on. When we moved to our new town, some financial changes pushed us back into the arena of public school. The schools here are not bad. Neither are they all that we were told they would be. I suppose that had we known what we would face in education, we would have made the same decision to follow the Lord. Our children have certainly done well, which is a great testimony to the impact homeschooling had on our kids, despite those who saw it as "second class."

So, today is the end of the beginning of a road not less traveled. Most choose this road, actually. The preferred law of the land is that we send our children into the midst of enemy territory every day. The "new education" promotes thinking that is contrary to Truth and encourages our children to live lives independent of parents yet under the authority of others who are under mandates from a country that, like the evil one, "is seeking whom he may devour."

We have had two major blessings in our educational experience this year. Perhaps more will surface as the winter wears away, but this morning two stand out. Both blessings are attached to our youngest son, who after today is no longer a kindergarten student. I'm not ready to call him a first grader yet. For a little over two months, he will be a home student again. The blessings are people, as God's blessings usually are. Who are these pools of fresh water in a dry and weary land? Mrs. Rose and Mr. Jonathan.

Our merciful Savior used Mrs. Rose to get our family through kindergarten. Our precious son did not want to go. As a matter of fact, when I would take him to the door, he would follow me outside, proclaiming boldly, "School is for babies, and I'm not going." I would talk to him, hold him, cry with him, and secretly wish I could take him away from this brick fortress that would keep him away from those who loved him most for the majority of the day. I didn't know Rose at first, but it did not take long for me to realize that she had the grace and mercy of Jesus in her heart, her life, her smile, and her classroom. She took David and helped him get comfortable, never giving any sign of impatience or fear. She knew he would be okay, even when we did not. She never forced him. She just loved him. At the end of the day, David would come out smiling. He was adjusting, and without Mrs. Rose, I am confident that he would not have made it. I wonder how our calling to the new church would have been different if Mrs. Rose had not been there to make sure that the beige brick building called "school" became a safe place for our son.

Things were not easy for the first two months. Every day we faced tears and drama. Sometimes even from David. :) Then September came. I had to be gone for several days, and everything we had worked on feel apart. Our son became fearful and apprehensive again. The family separation was too much for him, and his anguish grew worse than before. Mrs. Rose noticed it, as well. She talked with us about David's emotions, saying that at times during the day she would look at him, and he was sad. She would ask him about his feelings, and he would simply say that he missed us. If only he knew how much we were missing him during those seven hours every day. We tried to reassure him. Nothing seemed to work.

Allow me to introduce Mr. Jonathan. He is the principal of the school. From the beginning he was looking out for our son. Being a bi-vocational pastor and the son of a minister perhaps gives him more understanding to the plight of a five year old forced from his home and friends by no choice of his own. Coming from a place where he had a church filled with other friends his age to new stomping grounds where he is the only child his age was a challenge. Going to school having met absolutely no one was tough. Our other two children at least met some friends at church first. Mr. Jonathan must have known. After all, he did place our son in the classroom of an angel sent from heaven.

After a few weeks of discouragement and despair, I called Jonathan and asked him if we could talk. He graciously agreed. We talked about the move and about recent deaths. We realized that the last time I was gone for an extended time, my return brought my father's death and a move away from everything David had ever known. In David's mind, my absence meant something that he could not quite figure out. This young man talked me through my own fear and frustrations. He agreed to meet us at the door of the school for several days in a row to see if being passed from one male figure to another would make a difference. Then, he said, "I'd like to pray with you." I couldn't believe it. Here was a man who was willing to be the hands and feet of Jesus in a place I was totally unsure of when everything about the situation should have been dictated by state rules and organization. I cannot tell you the peace that rushed over me as this man of God prayed with me about our family, our son, his peace. We didn't pray about dibels, common core, reading, writing, or arithmetic. We prayed for the heart of one of the three most precious gifts God has ever blessed me with. I would be dishonest to say that from that day forward David never cried again. As a matter of fact, he cried the very next morning. The difference was that Mr. Jonathan met us at the door. He took my son by the hand and walked him into Mrs. Rose's classroom. They talked briefly, and then he left. Mrs. Rose took over from there, and the rest is history. This routine lasted for several days. I remember David saying that Mr. Jonathan came to check on him a few times over the next few days. Then, he was fine.

We went to school today for the last time as a kindergarten student. Tears were not shed - at least by my son. Dad, on the other hand, may still need Mr. Jonathan to meet me at the door. In a little more than an hour and a half, I will pick him up for the last time as a kindergarten student, and I will thank the Lord again for Mrs. Rose and Mr. Jonathan.

I cannot end this post without acknowledging the dry time that has kept me from writing. I, too, am weary and afraid. Many things lie ahead that I am unsure of and do not know how to handle. I am convinced that all physical events can point us to a spiritual reality, and the experience of our son and kindergarten is no exception. In our lives, we have a Mr. Jonathan, too. His name is Jesus, and he meets us at the points in our lives when we call out to him. As principal, Jonathan could have been too busy to meet a six year old at the door. Surely he had more important things to do. I am reminded of the words of Paul in Philippians. He wrote, "Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men." Praise God for a principal and friend who did not consider his position something to be grasped, but took on the form of a servant. In our lives, we also have a Mrs. Rose. Scripture says that our heavenly Father is our "refuge and strength, a very present help in times of trouble." He is safe, and He never wavers. Perhaps you would take the time to read the rest of that psalm as you seek the Lord for help to the struggles that are ahead.

Psalm 46 (ESV)

God is our refuge and strength,
    a very present help in trouble.

Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,
    though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,

though its waters roar and foam,
    though the mountains tremble at its swelling. Selah

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
    the holy habitation of the Most High.

God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved;
    God will help her when morning dawns.

The nations rage, the kingdoms totter;
    he utters his voice, the earth melts.

The Lord of hosts is with us;
    the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah

Come, behold the works of the Lord,
    how he has brought desolations on the earth.

He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
    he breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
    he burns the chariots with fire.

 “Be still, and know that I am God.
    I will be exalted among the nations,
    I will be exalted in the earth!”

 The Lord of hosts is with us;
    the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah

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