For the past eleven years, I have devoted myself to being an elementary teacher in our local public school system. Almost simultaneously my walk with the Lord has grown into something that means more than anything to my family and me. However, crossing those two things is not always an easy thing or the “right” thing to do. I have students from all kinds of backgrounds and at one time our school had students speaking 17 different languages. You can imagine the different views that I had to be sensitive to. Yet at the same time, my students always know exactly where I stand with my faith. From the music that softly plays in the background, to the cross hanging off of my desk light, or simply from the way I handle myself around them, I don’t have to mention Jesus or God, my students and those around me just know that my faith takes precedent over everything.
I want to share a short story of an experience I encountered this past school year that will hopefully give hope to some that Jesus is alive and well all around us, even in the public schools.
There I stood, smack dab in the center of the large room. A few others were there as well but oblivious as to what was about to happen. Without hesitation he grabbed my hand and began to pray. A prayer that wasn’t just a “wimpy” request for God to do something. It was a prayer that, as I think back on it, laid out the facts and asked God to get rolling! It wasn’t a quick prayer either, it was long! It had that power that catches you off guard and draws strangers in. It was amazing.
And this prayer didn’t happen in a church, at a Bible study, or where you might expect something like that to happen. It all happened in the middle of my fifth grade classroom, in the middle of our parent teacher conferences.
I had just finished meeting with a mother and son, sharing how great his year had been going. The mother knew of our adoption process and was asking some of the usual questions about timeline and all of that. Our conversation ended with just a simple explanation that we were once again back to ground zero with some things, but were ever so grateful that we were allowed to preserve our match with our daughter, Gracie. Our main priority now was to focus on the good things and get our baby girl home. God would take care of the rest.
As I turned to leave that conversation I was immediately stopped by another parent, a dad that I had met for the first time just a few minutes earlier. He stood there staring at me and said he had a question to ask. That type of thing during conferences always gets a teacher a little nervous, but I had to say yes.
His question was definitely not one I was expecting, at all.
“I just overheard your conversation with that family and I am wondering if I can pray for you?” he boldly said.
Without even thinking I agreed and was quickly swept up into one of those God moments. Standing face to face, he grabbed my hands, took off his stocking cap and bowed his head. Not worried one bit about the family still sitting a few feet away or the other family just across the room, he broke into one of those prayers that would make my momma proud. And it was bold and loud!
He prayed for Gracie, the baby girl he had never seen. He prayed for my family and our hearts through the process. He prayed for the people in Haiti that are making life-changing decisions as we wait. For the many people involved in trying to help figure out the messy situation, and he prayed for God’s grace and love to pour down on all of those involved. Finally he simply thanked God for all of the blessings and for bringing Gracie to our family. Amen.
The prayer took a minute or two but oddly seemed like it was longer. One of those prayers that you don’t want to leave because the emotion, heart felt passion, and love is just right there. I hope you can relate. Those types of prayers aren’t always easy to come by. I am not a master of them by any means, but when I get the privilege of hearing one, I am all in. I am a big time fan of the powerful prayer. No “wimpy” prayers for me, as a great friend once said.
Prayer has played a large part in my past and continues to be a powerful factor as we move forward with this adoption adventure. Prayer got me through the passing of my father when I was 8 years old. Prayer healed our oldest son when we thought we were going to lose him. And it continues to break down walls and bring hearts together. Prayer brought our daughter, Gracie, home.
Shortly after the prayer ended and this prayer warrior exited, I stood there for a second wondering what had just happened and was in complete awe of how God works. I was in awe of how in the middle of a public school classroom, I had just stood with a complete stranger and prayed. Those types of things just don’t happen and aren’t supposed to happen. God seems to show up at those times when we least expect it. God shows us who he is through the people we would never assume he would.
God rocked my world that night while I stood in a 5th grade classroom with a handful of people standing silently by. For a small moment in time it felt like my room, though filled with exercise balls, dirty desks, and broken pencils, was a safe spot where two brothers could come together and get real with God! I got served, as my kids would say!
Is it really necessary to say Jesus is alive “even” in the public schools? It’s not very good theology to suggest God might be absent anywhere — it goes against the very definition of God and his sovereignty. Just as we should not elevate certain types of kingdom work as special, superior callings, we should not identify others with inferior, less holy, less important, or more distant from God. This sort of value dualism does not rise of necessity from a perspective that values and even prefers Christian education, but too often that is the case, and it does harm, often needlessly dividing Christians and presenting communities with the idea that public school teachers and students are looked down on.