He was a scrappy little guy. Hair disheveled, quick with his fists, faster with his mouth. Teachers branded him grades before he ran into my class. I was never very fond of those heads-ups, but I suppose they got me prepped.
Upon stepping into my fourth grade classroom, I practiced a little rebellion of my own. There were encouraging notes in his desk, Saturday soccer game cheering, and prayer. I gave him responsibility that others didn’t think he could handle: like taking care of the classroom gerbils on the weekends. Who knows what adventures befell those three critters, but for the record; Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego never died while in his care. That doesn’t say much for me.
I want to tell you that he changed throughout the course of that year, because that would make for a good story. But he didn’t all that much. He still used those fists of his and that tongue. And he also threw in some gasoline with lighter fluid for good measure, right there in his backyard. I still remember getting the call and rushing like a madwoman to the burn unit. You should have seen his eyes that night. Seared with pain, they seared right through me.
I loved that scrappy kid. Still do, wherever he is. It wasn’t a love based on performance or merit or anything earned. He might have passed with D’s and he got in more trouble than I knew what to do with. I did not always respond to him well. He often drove me berserk, but I loved him.
Sometimes I wondered if I was just wasting my time, but I realized that I saw myself in his fights, his tousled hair, and his reckless decisions. He had scarred himself, others, and Jesus; as did I. The scars in Jesus’ own hands tell the story of us: our sin, His punishment; our repentance, His love. Jesus Himself never gave up on me. Together, we wouldn’t give up on him.
Someday my former student and I will meet in the cereal aisle in Wal-Mart. He won’t be so little anymore. We’ll laugh about the snake he lost in our reading nook and how he locked a third of the class in the library on accident. I’ll hear about his dreams for the future and we’ll remember his grandma with great love. I’ll ask about Christ and we’ll talk. I really look forward to this day.
Everyone has a story written on their hearts, spoken in the fabric of their days. Christ’s story tells my story. My story was unearthed in my student’s story. His story will write another’s. And the pages continue to be written, turned, and read. Only God knows how our stories will end up being told. Knowing Him, He’s got some pretty fantastic surprises up His sleeve. Maybe, just maybe, this fourth grader (all grown up) will be one of them. At least, I’m praying towards that end.
(Never give up on those scrappy little guys.)