During class last week, our professor sought to help us process the latest school shooting in Texas. Like all my instructors in the graduate school at Lipscomb’s College of Education, she was modeling for us how we could facilitate a similar discussion with our own students. She read a few texts, gave us a few minutes to write or draw, and then she let us share. She didn’t speak up, or interject her own views. At first, she didn’t give much feedback to us at all, but she gave us a forum to process and share our own feelings. She listened.
Like the rest of the nation, I have mourned the loss of those babies and their teachers. As a mother who sends her kids to public schools, I have prayed for the staffs of their schools and have hoped that they would never experience the horror the children of Uvalde faced. As a teacher, I have led my students through active shooter drills and thought through what I would do, how I would defend my students – even the ones that drive me nuts, with my own life.
For my own seventh grader daughter and her teachers, all the drills became a little more real this spring. A student at her school called in a false alarm, telling authorities that there was an active shooter in her school. It took time – precious, scary time, for the authorities to determine that the report was indeed false.
The school “locked down.” The children hid. The teachers turned out the lights, covered the windows, and barricaded the doors when the announcement came that “this is NOT a drill.” An entire building with more than 1100 students fell silent. The hallways may have been empty and still, but the thoughts and feelings inside my daughter’s heart were definitely not. She told me later they could hear the first responders’ sirens getting louder as they approached the three school campus. An administrator rattled the door knob checking to make sure their classroom door was locked and secure. She also told me later that she wondered if she would make it home, if things would ever be the same.
Her fear was real and valid even though the threat was not. She found comfort in her faith, in the Biblical promises that she knew to be true. She said she was confident she would go to heaven and even in the height of her fear, she knew confidently that she was not alone. Yes, her teacher and classmates were beside her, but she also knew her Savior was within her. God showed Himself to be real to her and He grew her young faith in a mighty way.
It is so sad to me that she had this experience, that she has legitimately feared for her young life and that her school, the place she spends most of her time in any given week, could be a scary place for her to be. I understand the parents who opt for other alternatives like homeschooling or private schools. I don’t fault them a bit and believe they are confident that they are doing “the right thing” for their children.
Even before our girls were born, my husband and I talked about how we wanted to educate our children. Never dreaming Columbine could ever happen, we said then we would send our kiddos to public schools. We wanted to actively be involved in their education and felt that they could learn so much more there than reading, writing and ‘rithmetic. We knew not every lesson would be positive or welcome or even safe, but we also knew we would have to faithfully entrust them into the hands of their Creator. After all, He was the One who has merely entrusted them to us for a few, fast years.
It’s true, our nation’s public schools can be dark, scary places. Yes, prayer has been taken out of schools, and we won’t find the 10 Commandments posted on her walls. After teaching for only a year (and it didn’t take that long to figure out), I can say that a forced prayer and poster or two cannot drive out the darkness that is so heavy and prevalent in every hallway, classroom, locker room, gym, and cafeteria.
Darkness is only chased away by light. We as Christ-followers are the light of the world. Whether the Christian is the one wearing the instructor badge or the student whispering prayers over his lunch – we are the light in the dark place. We are the ones that will love because we have first been loved by Him. We are the encouragement that can combat the literal and figurative gates of hell that are trying to prevail against the most innocent of us all, our children.
We cannot isolate our kids to protect our kids. We can make smart decisions, but technically we were never meant to control every factor and facet of our kids’ lives. We are not capable of protecting them from everything. We want them to learn to be in the world and not of the world, before we throw them to the world. Long before Sandy Hook, my husband and I have been acting on faith as we continue to send our daughters to their respective schools. We have embraced a belief that He had plans for them there and we were to be obedient to send them. We have had and will have hard conversations with them. We will continue to pray over them, trusting that the only One who loves them more than we do will protect their hearts, their minds and even their bodies.
A year ago, I accepted a calling, not of our local school district or even an inner desire to make a difference – but one to ministry, one that I fully believe came from God, not to teach a subject I love – but to love and to witness to and to be a light in a public school. I also fully believe that God has placed me at my school, on a faculty He selected for me and put specific kiddos in the seats within my classroom. I have learned in the last 12 months, that this is the greatest mission field I have ever been on and just how much I need Jesus to navigate it.
Gun control. Mental health awareness. Police response. Social media warning signs. Databases. – Yes, to all of these things and more. Improvements can, should and will be made. But for me, I know I can do more than petition law makers and I am already putting feet to my prayers. I am sending my Christian children into this mission field and I am putting on the armor of God and going in myself. Each and every day is an act of faith on both accounts.
When my professor posed her questions, read those texts and initiated the conversation, it became clear to me just how spiritual the current events our nation is facing really is. In addition, I listened to a really great sermon from Texas – Matt Chandler and The Village Church (https://www.tvcresources.net/resource-library/sermons/lament-and-hope/). If anything, I can say even more confident I am where I am supposed to be.
I will look and I will pray and I will work to help my students see that the light they need is what Jesus is actively doing inside of me.
What about you? We NEED Christian teachers, aids, subs, mentors, tutors and more. Could God be calling you to this immense spiritual battlefield?
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