At least once a day, a student walks into my classroom and says, "Can I stay in here? My other teacher kicked me out." Today, I had just turned on my music and cozied up to my computer to grade papers and eat my afternoon orange during my planning period when a student walked in and said those exact words. I asked him what happened, and he told me. This sweet kid who lives at one of the mobile home parks my church serves, and plays basketball with me on the weekends, is what most teachers would call a troublemaker or a lost cause. But I've seen this kid outside of school. I am the dorky teacher that he passes the basketball to in front of his friends even though he knows I won't make the shot. So I throw him the orange I was about to eat and tell him he can stay.
We talked about his family. He had a new cut above his eye that was all stitched up. He told me about how he and his brother got in a fight last night, which is where the cut came from. I asked him if he had a father figure at home, and this is what the conversation sounded like:
Him: No, my mom had a man for about 11 years, but she kicked him out.
Him: He kept cheating on her. One year he took all of our Christmas money and bought crack and hoes. We didn't have Christmas that year. (My heart just broke a little)
Me: Well it's a good thing she kicked him out then.
Him: Well she didn't kick him out after that, it was years later.
This was not the extent of our conversation. Many shocking and sad comments were made by him today. How do you tell a kid who can make those statements seem completely normal that behaving and getting good grades in school is important? Simply put, you can't. You can love them, you can pray for them, and you can ask them to make choices that will guarantee them a better life than the one they had during childhood.
I asked him about his goals and whether or not he planned to graduate from high school. He said he did even though he had not received credit for a class in over a year. So we made a list. Those of you who know me, know I love lists! We wrote down his goals. Where he wanted to be 1 year, 2 years, 5 years from now. I told him to never take his eyes off his goals. Every time a person tried to convince him that drugs, alcohol, sex, violence, theft (I was sure I was leaving out many other temptations, but I stopped there) were the answer, he should look towards his goals. Did those things get him closer to or farther away from his goals?
When he left, I started thinking about my goals. I know the ultimate prize. I know Jesus. My goal is to serve Him and to constantly grow more like Him each day. I want to praise and glorify God through my actions. But how often do I take my eyes off the prize? How often do I store "stuff" up for my material goals on earth while ignoring the souls of those around me? Every time I sin, I have taken my eyes off of my goal, and I have taken a step backwards. I pray today that we can both keep our eyes on our goals, and that through my eyes being fixed on Jesus I can show this boy true love and true sacrifice given by the most amazing Redeemer and Father.
"Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do:forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained.
Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself."