Luke 6:27-28 (NIV)
“But to you who are willing to listen I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hurt you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.”
The children’s ministry at our church is outstanding. Just sayin’. Want to know why I feel this way? Let me share a bit from my very real life right now. The kids have their own service while us adults are in “big church.” They are divided by grades and have their own worship, their own praise and dance team. The lesson is interactive. It’s fun. Part of the curriculum is a Bible verse they learn along with some hand motions, etc to help them memorize it. A few weeks ago, my Rivers came home quoting the verse above along with the motions. I asked her if she knew what it meant and we talked about this idea of praying for people who hurt us. (Jill, I know you will read this…this is what it’s all about. This is why everything you pour into the children’s ministry at C3 matters. You might not hear many of these stories, but you will hear mine. And I know I’m not the only parent with a story. Smile…)
Third grade has been on for just over two weeks. In those two weeks I have become familiar with the name of one little girl, in particular. Last week she said a couple of very personal and rude things to Rivers. The kind of things that would hurt a grown adult’s feelings. Yesterday, as Rivers got into the dream machine this little girl’s name came up, again. The teacher reassigned seats for the entire class and now Rivers sits at the same cluster of desks with this student. And again, she found a way to insult Rivers on a personal level yesterday.
The first time Rivers told her dad and I about her experience, we both encouraged her about how sometimes people just don’t have God’s love in their hearts and sometimes they come to school and treat others the way they are being treated at home. We encouraged her that it would be okay for her to tell this student that she was being rude, but we did not want her to respond with rudeness herself. Then we talked about the verse she had been learning at church. God had already been preparing the way and it humbles me now as I write. We said, Rivers this is a time in life when the Bible verses you are learning come into play in real life. And we prayed. For this little girl. By name.
Now, my heart rate picks up even as I type. Smile. Because I will be honest, yesterday when Rivers told me about the latest comment this little girl had made to her, I instantly felt “mama bear” waking up inside of me. I can feel her now! As we talked about her day I began to think, When will be our first class party? Maybe Halloween? I need to lay eyes on this little girl who is hurting my child. I kind of had a brief fantasy of putting her in her little third-grade, smart-mouth place. I’m just being real, okay.
This is new territory for us. Rivers, honestly, has been well received and well liked in her class so far in school. She was voted “most friendly girl” in Mrs. Broughton’s second grade class last year and her teacher gave her the “Spirit Award” and said she had never had a student with such spirit as Rivers. I know reading that could be annoying. So, I’m sorry if it is. I get that! But I type with mama-heart tears because she is really a delightful girl. She’s not perfect by any means, but she isn’t the kind of little person to intentionally hurt others. So, yesterday afternoon it was killing and confounding this mama’s heart.
So I called my own mother for a quick pep talk. For me! Here is what I know:
I can’t stop it from happening. I mean I could try. You know, get mad and tell Rivers how to tell this little girl off. I could tell Rivers to get a teacher involved, but it’s not at that level. I could try to wish it away or give myself and ulcer hoping it stops and never happens again. All of that, however, is a colossal waste of time. Rivers, as well as my other daughters, are going to encounter unkind people who mistreat them. It’s going to happen. I will not create a bubble for them. I’m not a fan of the bubble. One day they have to face life outside of the bubble and it’s my job to help prepare them. So, best I see it, the most worthwhile thing her dad and I can help her do is deal with it. Navigate the choppy waters of childhood. Because I believe God put her in Mrs. Bay’s class. I pray every year over the teachers my children will have. And I trust Him. This is the class she is meant to be in and she is going to have some growth opportunities. A chance to let the rubber meet the road. Me, too, it appears.
So, this morning over Cheerios Rivers asked me to pick something out of “Parenting With Scripture” (it’s a topical guide on scripture with a few applications for children by Kara Durbin and I got mine from The Source at C3 Church). We don’t do it every single day so please don’t get any lofty ideas about our mornings! When I remember or they remind me, I’ll sit down and choose a random subject. This morning, with the current situation at hand, I chose Love. And do you know what the first scripture reference listed was? Indeed. It was Luke 6:27-28, the verse above. The same verse she had been learning and quoting since before school started. The same verse we talked about last week when she was picked on the first time.
He’s so good. He’s so personal. Really, this is where the rubber meets the road. This is the good stuff in the middle of the not so good stuff. This is why knowing Jesus, walking with Him, listening for Him and esteeming His Word is powerful. I wish you could have seen the smile that flashed across her face as I said, Rivers, guess what the first verse is!? I believe He orchestrates and confirms Himself within the details of our lives. I believe even though this may be a tough season for my girl, Jesus is already there waiting. He has some purposes in mind. For Rivers. For mine and Shannon’s hearts and our need for Godly wisdom. And for this little girl who needs to see love and grace in action.
As we read this verse about loving our enemies I flipped over to 1st Corinthians 13 and read to my girls in The Message paraphrase about love. God’s love for us and the very kind He asks us to give away. Even, and especially, to those who hurt us. I told Rivers I had been thinking before she woke up about Jesus. About how even those who adored Him turned on Him in the end. Some were mean and insulted Him. Some even spit on Him and made fun of Him. But you know what? Jesus knew who He was. He knew He was the Son of God and so He did not get distracted by the negativity or those who would tear Him down. Jesus kept His eyes on Who God made Him to be and His purpose. I encouraged my oldest daughter to know who she is. I said, Rivers, who are you? You are God’s child. Keep your eyes on that. Don’t get distracted.
A few minutes later I dropped out my two oldest in carpool lane and drove away with the sight of them walking together into school in my rearview mirror. Goodness! As I drove away I whispered a prayer of trust to Him. I trust You, God. I trust You with my children. After all, they are really your children. Even now tears roll down my face. I know you understand…wouldn’t we all love to shield our babies from hurtful people? But you know what, God didn’t shield His Son. God had purpose so great in Jesus that no amount of mocking criticism or negativity could drown out the reality of His Love at work in the Cross.
Be thankful in all circumstances, the Bible says. Tall order sometimes. But let me share why I’m thankful. I’m thankful for C3Kids and how it pours into my children. I’m thankful for staff and leaders and volunteers who get silly and yet take seriously the impact they are having on the kids. I’m thankful for a God who would plant a scripture in my daughter’s heart knowing she would soon need it. I’m thankful for His hand directing my heart this morning to the very page that listed this verse first. I’m thankful that God will use what seems bad to bring about good. I’m thankful that He leads my own heart to pray for this little girl and not just tell Rivers to do it. Because in praying for her I remember she is only a child. Probably a hurting child who needs the love of Jesus.
I’m thankful because there is purpose in even the tough stuff. The stuff of rubber meeting road. I’ll probably still feel mama bear growling. I might cry some more tears with my daughter. But together, we’ll learn to love our enemies and pray for those who mistreat us. I fully expect to see the blessings of God as we do.
“God, thank You that You made us and You like us.” –Leah, On-the-Way-to-School Prayers, 9-12-12.