I am pretty overwhelmed by how much loss and suffering I have seen in the last year and a half. I know so many people, young and old, who have lost their spouses. I have watched my students and my siblings lose their friends to death and, tragically, these friends of theirs are children of loving parents and younger siblings of my friends and my students. Children have lost their parents and parents have lost their children. It is amazing to me how many people connected to my circle of Christ-following friends have lost those dearest to them in this life so very suddenly in just the last 18-20 months.
As a teacher, I have had children confide in me so often the troubles of their precious hearts. Their struggles and anxieties begin so very young. I am teaching a little girl right now who is about 6 or 7 who lost her older sister last year. 7-year-olds are too young for that. I have their older sister in a class too. The sister who passed away was between them in age and I just remember the first day back to school after this tragedy, sweet “S” just hugged me tighter than I thought was possible. She smiles so big because she has that child-like faith that her dear sister is with Jesus. Her smile absolutely amazes me and I know it is Jesus in her. I know it like I know I like chocolate chip cookies because nothing but Jesus could put a smile like this on her precious, young face.
I see these smiles, these unbelievable smiles of truest, deepest, heart-alteringest faith in the smallest faces.
Then there are the kids who don’t know Jesus. The difference is heartbreaking to the absolute extreme. These tiny people who have barely lived life are already despairing in the deepest sense. They cannot understand why they even exist and their suffering is as real as you can imagine. They cry these hopeless tears that I thought only grown-ups knew how to cry. These sweet children who should be laughing and dancing and singing and exulting in just being alive. They are children. They are the little ones whom Jesus loves and wants us to let “come unto Him.” But they are already carrying grown-up-sized burdens and they can’t straighten their backs enough under the weight to look up at the Truth for even one moment.
You think I’m being dramatic, but in the last 2 years I have spent countless hours with somewhere around 150-200 children. Many of these hours have been one-on-one and I am telling you that I am not exaggerating.
There is so. much. suffering.
But this is what my kiddos have taught me: Jesus makes absolutely all the difference. Even children grieve with hope when they know the end of the story is Jesus. The difference in the grief of children astounds me. Hope and No Hope and absolutely no in-between. It’s one or the other. They all grieve deeply. But those who know Jesus smile these radiant smiles through a grief they can barely understand but feel immensely. Oh, that they all would know Jesus!
I am trying to confront the inner-me: the sinner-me. This is the me that refuses to open her hands and let Jesus have all the stuff I am grasping with my stubborn, curled-up, cramping fingers. I am a clinger and a grasper and I don’t want to let go of it all- at all. I know the bottom line is that I don’t trust Almighty God and, according to some of the language I have learned at my new church, this is “cosmic treason” against the King of Kings. I’m not worried about being forgiven- I know that’s done and over and complete. I am thinking, though, about what I know in my heart to be true: I am not free when I am grasping at things and refusing to open up my fists. I am still a slave and that is not God’s will for me in Christ Jesus.
I want to be free and I want to change and I want to want Jesus more than the grasped things. I don’t want to be afraid when I walk into a room of people. I don’t want to feel inferior to the colleagues I fear. These are silly feelings that come out of the smallness of my courage and Jesus can make my courage large. I want to let him. I want him to have control, but opening my hands is almost impossible and I don’t really understand why. They are my hands and I can make them do what my mind wills and my heart desires… but I guess that is where the “slavery” comes in. This is why I can’t: I am bound to fear. But I’m not anymore!!! I’m already free!!! Jesus took care of that… so why do I still squeeze the life out of my own heart with my clinging, twisting, wringing hands?
Is God good?
I say yes. I believe yes. He is good.
Is he good when children die? Yes.
Is he good when children weep adult-heavy tears? Yes.
Does he ache with this aching world? Yes.
That is why he is good.
I’ve learned so much from dear, precious, wonderful, sweet “S.”
Radiant smiles like the one she wears belong on the faces of all the redeemed. Even our tears are cried in the joy of the knowledge that someday it will all be right.
This is Truth.