“I’m proud of you for getting into one of the programs the college offered, and this isn’t done yet,” I affirmed. “I’d reach out to the people in charge of the other programs and let them know you’re still interested. It’s all about people, and if you keep showing interest something might open up.”
And I kissed my daughter, told her I loved her, and let her know I’d help her in any way I could. And then I said good night.
A fairly common occurrence around our house, whether it’s my wife Julia talking to one of the kids, or me coming alongside them, or the two of us working together to help them through some issue or difficulty. Nothing very exotic or out of the ordinary.
And then, after the aforementioned discussion with Bethany, the revelation occurred. “And that’s exactly the kind of conversation missing from the lives of many of my students,” I shared with Julia.
I teach at a community college. There is a wide array of students seeking associate’s degrees or just trying to knock out some general education credits on their way to a four-year college. There’s the fresh-out-of-high-school student, the been-working-a-few-years-and-ready-to-get-going student, the single-mom-rebooting-her-life student, the starting-a-second-career student. Different ages, backgrounds, abilities, and support systems.
Quite a few of them, maybe more than I realize, have no support system.
When an opportunity disappears, they lose a job, a relationship ends, or they get a bad grade, they don’t have someone to step in and say, “Listen, I know what you’re made of; you can do better if you just get some help. And here are some places to get help, and I’ll go with you to back you up.” They have to back themselves up, and frankly, that gets pretty exhausting after awhile.
Buttressing themselves against disappointment and loss takes a lot out of them. I see it in some of their faces when I hand them a paper with a less than stellar grade. That’s why I try to say genuinely encouraging words to my students. I’m not perfect at it, and I don’t always think to do it, but on occasion I believe God has allowed me to say something that lets a student know they don’t have to go it alone.
I told one student recently that one of the best qualities she possessed was a teachable heart. She looked at me like she had just won the lottery. “Thanks Mr. Boyd,” she responded. “I really needed to hear that today.”
Words matter. What we say to people matters.
As I consider the theme of this blog, this is one of the most easily available ways for us to respond to the question, “What does God want me to do?”
He wants you to be a light. He wants you to point people to the Light. He wants you to do that through words and caring. He wants you to show compassion and affirm the God-given value of each person, bestowed at birth and confirmed by the Cross.
In some way, even if it’s to our kids for the thousandth time, or to a stranger who we may never see again, may we find the words by the Spirit’s direction that will help people know they aren’t meant to walk through their strife alone. They don’t have to do that.
And the biggest strife they’ll ever face has been resolved: the strife between themselves and a loving Father who has reconciled them through His Son. God give us the courage to let them know that:
“When you go through deep waters,
I will be with you.
When you go through rivers of difficulty,
you will not drown.
When you walk through the fire of oppression,
you will not be burned up;
the flames will not consume you.
For I am the Lord, your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.” (Isaiah 43:2-3a)
Or, in other words, God has your back.