Our 3-1/2 week break was probably a week too long. Or maybe it was those nagging interruptions in what should have been “normal” schooldays—trips to the car repair shop, meetings at church that forced us to leave earlier than usual, etc. Or perhaps the kids just had too many late nights during the break. Undoubtedly, the blame lies somewhere within some combination of all these reasons and more. At any rate, our start after the holiday break was somewhat less than spectacular. The oldest could be outrun by a turtle in completing her work, finishing one night as late as 11 p.m. If I said go left, my son wanted to argue about why he should go right. Then the youngest would get bored all too quickly, and a couple of moments of inattention on my part would leave her licking the lead from a mechanical pencil, or some other bit of craziness. Most of what irritated me to no end was the lack of energy and enthusiasm. Man, it’s hard to read and interact between yawns and heads resting on hands; the narrations nearly put me to sleep!
Just as I was contemplating the best freeway to drop these guys off with a “For Sale—Cheap Price” sign, the phone rang. From my caller i.d., I smiled, knowing immediately who it was—a dear friend whom I hadn’t spoken with in a long time. Our paths crossed initially when our kids attended private school together, and we became true sisters in Christ after working on the school’s parent/teacher/church board together. We were reunited soon after I began homeschooling while praying together for her then 8-year-old son, who battled cancer for more than a year. As all of this flashed through my mind in a matter of seconds, I picked up the phone with mixed emotions.
Her voice was so sweet and I was initially relieved. Then she began to tell me that she was finally withdrawing her son from the same school where I met her. She began to speak of the conditions in which he’s trying to learn this year: a classroom of 5th and 6th graders because the school couldn’t afford to hire two teachers, several kids who have needs that the teacher is not equipped to handle, and non-existent discipline. Then she described the persecution her son is subjected to because the cancer forced him to missed quite a bit of school. He’s stupid, he’s gay, the kids say ( in a Christian school, no less). “All of this has taken such a toll on his mind, and now he’s suicidal,” she says in desperation. “He won’t eat, and we had to have him hospitalized and fed through a tube.” This beautiful spirit who fought cancer so bravely and testified to so many is now a 5’3”, 88-pound pile of skin and bones who is actually considering death as a way out of his 11-year-old misery.
My mother-in-law has often said that she is quickly tested in the very word that she uses to help exhort someone else, and my spirit would bear witness with her spirit to this fact today as I continued to listen to my friend. The old me would have still been preoccupied with my own woes, and I might have said, “Well, I’ll be praying for you,” and then prayed (when I remembered) after hanging up the phone. But having written about focusing outside of myself, I wasn’t about to let this moment pass me by. At the point that she spoke of her son saying the devil was trying to get him, I stopped her to ask if she had time to pray, and I began to join with her in the fight against the devil for his mind. I prayed scriptures to both encourage her and to remind her of what Christ says about him, regardless of what he might think of himself these days. We ended the conversation by discussing some educational options for him, and she has a plan that she is at peace with, at least for now.
Afterward I sat back at the table to regroup and continue with my own kids, and I was thankful for the in-the-moment lesson. There are too many parents and kids out there with real problems that a good night’s sleep won’t cure for me to stew on my relatively benign struggles. The Holy Spirit also brought to my attention the end of one of the many “OT” stories that found its way to my e-mail: I am not laying bricks, nor building walls. With God’s help, I am crafting three cathedrals. A fog of light storms, academically speaking, clouded their beauty temporarily, but they will shine as pure gold.
If you are so led, please lift up young Andrew and agree with me for his restoration–physically, mentally, and emotionally. God bless you.