Usually I use my commute time to work to pray for those I have had the privilege to know. This includes a list of students whom I have taught over the years. These students are troubled, for one reason or another. They face differing issues of isolation, temptation, ridicule, lack of compassion, low self esteem; any number of things that affect young folks in the angst filled years of middle school. Incidentally, I see a small part of myself in each of these people that I have added to my prayer list, asking for God in His mercy to intervene in their lives, to bless them and surround them with angels to protect them and guide them to seek Him; for God’s will in their lives to be done.
Now on a recent field trip I was chatting with one of the parent chaperones, and I mentioned one of the people on my prayer list that I have been praying for for years. She replied, “Him? His bus stop is near my house and I have observed him being mercilessly teased and spat upon by his peers. He has taken to wearing a black trench coat, and I am very worried about him.”
Now this concerned me greatly. I will call this young man James. I asked if she knew how I could get in touch with him and she replied that he worked at one of the local superstores in the area. I knew I had to contact James somehow, and I wondered if I did what I would say to him.
The next day was Saturday and I hopped into the truck and began visiting local stores. I had no luck after about 90 minutes of running around. Then I found a store in
“James!” I said as I found him at the register in the electronics department. “How are you? It’s SO GOOD to see you again after these many years!” We were both smiling and he seemed surprized. He was still overweight with a pale complexion and had grown a thin fuzzy beard. As I came up to the register the others who were working there wandered away, perhaps understanding that I wanted to have a few private words with my former student. The following is what I had to say to this young man, this very special person in the sight of God, and in my own heart. I had some things planned out to say, but at the moment every word fled from my thoughts, and I struggled for what to say.
James, I have good news for you, and you look like you could use some. I understand you are being picked on. However, I have been praying for you every week since you left my class in the 7th grade. Soon, these people who torment you will be left behind when you graduate from high school, and you will be able to make a fresh start in a new place. I understand you have taken to wearing a trench coat, and I that this may represent the walls you have built to protect you from … pain. Having walls are normal, but be careful, because the walls that we build to protect us can also serve to keep us inside and isolate us. And believe it or not, even in the midst of pain, God has purpose. You see, one day, you may meet a young man who is being tormented, just as you have been. On that day, you will be able to tell him “I understand what you are going through. I know. I have been there.” Then, it will be your turn, you see, to pray for them, just as I have been praying for you. And if you ever feel like you are going to explode, like you are going to lose it, call me. I will come running. By this time we were both crying. I took my leave, and cried some more in my truck in the parking lot.
In retrospect, I realize that these words I spoke to James were meant, in a way, for me as well. For the walls that I have erected to protect myself are a prison of sorts. I have eschewed social situations in favor of isolation, to the point where I have never been married. I have been a member of the church praise team twice, and twice I have walked away without going to church for 3 months without so much as a word to anyone. People get too close to me and I become a human clam, closing up and hiding within my own house. God have mercy on me. I wonder sometimes why the folks at Christ the Redeemer have anything to do with me at all.
But I am not alone, by any means. Some people dive into their jobs, becoming consumed with the drive to acquire wealth or find self-fulfillment, at the cost of relationships in their lives. Some live out fantasy lives in online MMORPG’s, mass multiplayer online role playing games. You can name any activity, however benign, and there will be those who dive into it to avoid pain or pursue pleasure. It’s a normal reaction found in all of us- after all, that’s how we teach our pets to become housetrained. Some folks even avoid pleasure and pursue pain, in an attempt to purge themselves of whatever issues they face. It’s the same thing, flipped around.
The question is, what are your walls? How did they come about, and what role do they play in your own life? Are they of a normal size, or are they exaggerated to the point of being an obstacle to future growth?
Hi. It’s me again. Good morning =). In as much as I am able, I give my walls to you. Come and inhabit the place they occupy, and do as You please with them in my life. Help me in my weakness. Help me to love. Help me to be as You want me to be. Let me be as an open book, that in spite of my imperfections, that others might somehow see Your love through me. I love you.