As I walked the halls of the public high school where I teach Latin, returning to my room after submitting six failures from Latin I to the guidance office, I felt the weight of an elephant on my chest and burning tears around the rims of my eyes. It was not the six failures that produced these sensations, but they contributed to a cumulative, crushing effect. Perhaps it was that one of our students was raped on her way home earlier this week. Perhaps it was the cheating scandal that has rocked our school, involving a young man who photographed with his phone a final exam and sold it to students. This same young man was discovered to have stolen multiple tests and quizzes from another teacher during the teacher's absence. Perhaps it was a colleague's discovery that a student had gotten onto his computer and changed grades. Perhaps it the sadness I have felt for some time and that hit critical mass yesterday over a former student who is a friend on Facebook. This student, who must be in her late twenties by now, was a dark, edgy girl as I recall her. Now, she works at a local bar, and the vast majority of her body not covered by clothing is decked out in tattoos. I do not want to know what a former student looks like under her clothes. She friended me a long time ago, and I accepted, but now I see frequent updates of her in all manner of undress at her work, which seems to promote such appearance. I am praying the Lord will draw her to Him and out of the life she is living.
Yes, there are good times, too. Yesterday I called a family to inform them of their daughter's perfect score on her final. The grandmother took the call and was ecstatic over the news. I think it brought them additional joy, since my student's mother is suffering from a brain tumor, something of which I was unaware.
Yet today as I walked the halls, I felt oppression. My school is above average in academic, athletic, and artistic/musical achievements. We have the awards and statistics to prove it. We are, however, feeling the crushing weight of the immorality and despair that seems to be sweeping the nation, if not the world. I found myself wanting to get out, to leave, to do anything but bear the burden of this weight.
And then I thought of Mother Teresa and of Jesus. How long did Mother Teresa work in the slums? What oppression did her soul suffer? What weight of sin did our Lord have to carry in the moral sinkhole of the 1st century Roman empire? In the garden of Gethsemane, He asked our Father, "Let this cup pass from me," but added in His typical, faithful way, "nevertheless, not my will, but thine be done."
At the end of the day, I am honored by the call to serve God in this capacity, I call I first heard as a high school student. I am also grateful for the ability to feel grief over what surrounds and threatens us. There are times when I wonder how deeply I have been stained by the culture in which I am so deeply enmeshed. I was shaken recently when the word "homey" came up in our class, and I immediately thought of the slang term for a fellow gang member, but one of my students first thought of the adjective meaning comfortable, warm, and homelike.
Pray for our children in this country, whose amorality so quickly leads to immorality. Pray for their parents and the other leaders in their lives to lead them well toward the One Who is truth, even Jesus Christ. Pray for my former student who has gone down a wayward path. She has a beautiful name, in stark contrast with her appearance. Our Lord will understand why I ask that you pray for her using the name "Sharon," which, of course, is not her name.
And pray for the Christian adults in America's public schools. Yesterday, as I walked the halls, I felt as if I were carrying a large, round shield in my left hand and a large sword in my right. The shield was dented and dirty, and the weapons were heavy in my hands. Like the Hebrew slaves of Egypt, we are increasingly being asked to make bricks without straw as foolish and constricting initiatives bind the hands of the creative teachers who would do the best for children.
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