For thus says the LORD: "Behold, I will extend peace to her like a river and the glory of the nations like an overflowing stream; and you shall nurse, you shall be carried upon her hip, and bounced upon her knees. As one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you; you shall be comforted in Jerusalem. You shall see, and your heart shall rejoice; your bones shall flourish like the grass; and the hand of the LORD shall be known to his servants, and he shall show his indignation against his enemies. Isaiah 66: 12-14
It is a tough road to walk when a parent must watch her child suffer. I remember praying over the feet of my three year old as they stuck out of an MRI machine when we were trying to get a diagnosis for his seizures. I remember holding each of my children as they cried and told me about bullying at school. And I have hugged my daughter, and wiped away her tears, many times this year as she has struggled to serve God in the place He has provided for her.
My daughter Anne loves her students. She teaches immigrant children music and art and they love her. She teaches two subjects that are able to transcend language and culture differences. Two subjects where they can praise God, learn, communicate, and be successful. Even the school custodian likes to slip into her room, on occasion, "to watch those children enjoy learning." Anne has worked long hours, donated nearly all of her free time to write curriculum, and a chunk of her salary to provide her 100 plus students with ways to enjoy God's world and ways to share His love.
And now she has to tell them she will not be back to teach next year.
The principal and the Priest at her school, different people from the ones who hired her, decided her job is really part-time and have cut her salary for next year by almost 40% without reducing her teaching load. She can't live on that, and pay her student loans; without a significant reduction in her workload she would not be able to make up her income with a second job, so she declined the contract.
I have two friends, who like my daughter have served God in the places God put them. These friends find themselves kicked out into the cold, too. I know that God has a plan for my daughter and my friends but for now I don't understand why they have to suffer. So I watch, listen and pray.
It is difficult to watch your children suffer. I have friends who have watched their children survive many obstacles: premature birth, loss of a parent, illness, learning disabilities, pain, both physical and emotional. As parents, we fiercely work to defend and protect our children; we are all adamant that we would rather suffer the pain in their stead. But we cannot do that so we watch, listen and pray.
God does not want to see His children suffer. Suffering is not, and never was, His will for us. A pain-free, perfect life in a pristine garden was His will for us, but, we ruined that.
It is hard to watch loved-ones suffer and it is difficult to understand why some people suffer so much more than others, or why some seem to suffer even though they labor to do God's work. It isn't fair, somehow.
God doesn't believe in fair, and thank goodness for that. Fair would mean we each get what we deserve; what is coming to us; our just deserts. But we don't want that, because what we deserve is a punishment we could not survive.
Instead God gives us forgiveness, and grace, and mercy; none of which we deserve.
There is another way in which God is not fair; He doesn't bless each and every one of us with the same amount of faith and strength and courage. Instead He comforts us as we are needful. He comforts us so that our hearts can rejoice, even in our time of suffering.
That is something a mother can understand.
So I will watch and listen and pray for my daughter as God blesses her with forgiveness, mercy, grace and the comfort she needs. And I thank God that He loves her with a love that is much stronger than a mother's love.
The last couple of weeks have been discouraging to my teacher heart. I have seen many reminders that teaching is not a gift or profession that is respected. God reminds me that He does not ask me, or others, to teach for respect or profit. He asks us to teach for Him and that is enough. As I tell my undergrad students, we all teach and learn in some fashion. Be serious about your teaching and learning, especially during this Lenten season. Let God teach you and help you teach others. Let Him provide you with the faith you need. Let Him comfort you.
Watch and listen and pray.
Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness. Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Romans 12: 6-13