Years ago I taught at an alternative high school. Even though I feel extremely comfortable in a room full of teenagers, these kids were unruly, some of them had poor manners, and others had no idea how to behave in a classroom setting. Many days I talked myself into showing up; more days I talked myself into staying. Often, I wondered what God’s plan was for me there.
After months of training them behaviorally, as well as academically, there were still times that their attitude and behavior drove me crazy. As the months went on, it wasn’t that they were being more naughty, they were getting more comfortable with me. Yet more than once, when I’d reach my exasperation point, I’d chew them out. (envision stern face) “This is how you behave. This is what I expect…” that kind of thing. One memorable day, I had just given them “the talk” once again when one piped up and said, “Yeah, but you love us.” Immediately, I said, “True.”
True. I did. They made me nuts, but I loved them. Know what’s super important to a teenager? To know they’re loved. Heck, we teachers need that, too. It’s been a long time since I’ve been in high school but I can relate to those kids because if I’m really honest, I’ve just described how I must look to God sometime.
I’m the kid in high school who has clear instructions laid out but still has moments where I have no idea how to behave. And I know He has to have moments of exasperation with me. “She knows better than that!” After that year (I left that position), I struggled spiritually in a way different than I ever had before and all I could count on were promises He makes to not abandon me, and that His love is wider, deeper and richer than anything I could ever comprehend and the best part – is mine for the taking.
When I’d feel most out of control in my spirit and desperate for someone to save me, my deep assurance was that I could say to God, “Yeah, but you still love me.” It’s so assuring that He’s not going to quit on us, He’s not going to say, “You’re worthless and you’ll never learn.” God would never sit there and wonder if He should walk out because I’m slow to catch on.
He knows all about what’s going on in my heart and yet deals with me tenderly, like the loving Father He is. So that memorable day, I learned why God had me there: to love those kids who were rarely loved; to receive gratitude from those unaccustomed to giving it.
If someone exasperates you, at least let them know that despite that, you love ’em. They’re looking for it just like you are and we’re all children who need it.