How Deep Is Your Incarnation?

the beautiful due

The Bible records Jesus as having a reputation
for being a glutton and a drunkard. Now its true
this came from his critics, the whineys. But I must
confess I’m inclined to believe a kernel of truth in
their digs, that on occasion, or at least once, the Lord
overdid it. This fits with my view of the grand miracle.
I believe he went too far.
A respectable savior would have just dipped his toes
in the human pool or at the most waded in up to his waist.
But this one took the whole thing too far, this one ate
and drank to the literal dregs and while he was at it
shook hands that had been God knows where. This one
seems not to have given a damn about respectability.
This man coined ardor.
 

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Boys. Mostly.

It’s a pretty good day when three of your kids make the jump rope team at their elementary school.

Also, the Lord keeps overwhelming my life with small boys. The ones that were once small, my soon-men, fill my days with history and life discussions and the constant guessing game of how much food it will take to fuel their constant growth spurts. My smaller boys fill my afternoons with math homework and questions about Moses and requests to jump over things and make lots of noise. (Most often I say no, but you have to say yes at least once a week, I’ve found.)

Six boys and one girl make up my One Hope Academy class. I teach them history and art this year, and plan and make their lunches. My after-school fifth graders are made up of three girls and (as of today) six boys. And boys have this way of seeming like more than six when you turn your back on them. I have actually grown eyes in the back of my head. We do homework and play games and read Harry Potter.

And these are my days lately. These are my people. Their minds and bodies are my responsibility. Their hearts are my prayers.

resolution.

I’m a resolution-type. My family has this white board above the kitchen calendar where each of us writes our personal resolutions for the year, so I suppose I come by it honestly. Usually about half of the resolutions are serious and half are tongue-in-cheek, because that’s the way my family works. My mom brings the sincerity, my dad brings the sarcasm. The kids have a little of both.

Usually the resolution I put on the board has more of a winking tone and less of an honest one. But if you look in my 300 page red journal that I’ve carried with me for almost three years now, you’ll find list after list of resolutions in minuscule handwriting. (This is both to fit the words into the graph paper and to prevent those sitting near me from catching glimpses of my soul too easily.) There are always New Year’s resolutions, but there are many others too: summer interning resolutions, spring break resolutions, this weekend resolutions, resolutions about how to battle a sin or resolutions about how to love people better tomorrow.

My resolution on the board this year is to eat breakfast, coupled with a small drawing of eggs and oatmeal. And as of today, February 4th, I would say that I have maybe eaten breakfast about 15 or 20 times this year. Kind of a failure as far as resolutions go. But I’m not giving up yet, mostly because this resolution is about more than the act of eating breakfast. It’s about having mornings again and not feeling like my day is something that just happens to me almost faster than I can handle it. I live at a fast pace and keep late hours. The former out of necessity and the later out of necessity and bad habits.

But I remember with great fondness that semester at Master’s when I got up before most of the rest of the campus and joined the quiet morning crowd in the caf. I ate my eggs and read my Bible and looked over my lesson plans, and, for a few brief months, I was a morning person. I like that me. I want her back. Eating breakfast again is a symbol, I suppose, for trying to regain some order and discipline in my life.

And that’s what all my resolutions are usually about, anyway.

beginnings.

Last Monday was the parent orientation for One Hope Academy’s 5th and 6th grade class. I drove the big red van (the one Sarah and I not-so-affectionately nicknamed “Bertha”) out north to pick up parents. Watching the streaks of orange and pink sunset, I prayed for the new school year. And I was suddenly struck with the realization that–this is actually happening.

Last winter, Miriam and I read and read books about education. (We still do, I suppose.) But one of the things we saw as a reoccurring theme was that the teachers who had marvelous success with inner-city classrooms taught, for a large part, in 5th grade classrooms. We dreamed of teaching younger kids, kids who hadn’t yet given up on themselves. I wrote a long list of ideas in my journal, and we spent sunny afternoons at McClure Park dreaming about what we could do.

And so we had the first week of One Hope Academy’s 5th & 6th grade class. It wasn’t perfect. But I thought it was all the more beautiful for that. Twelve God-provided students sat in God-provided desks wearing God-provided uniforms and I was in awe.

(First day picture stolen from onehopeblog.wordpress.com)

These twelve–five girls, seven boys–are all students we met in our tutoring ministry. One I’ve known since she was tiny and crying every day because her mom was in jail. Now her mom I count a friend and sister.

One has come since the first summer of getAHEAD, and now she texts me on the weekends and I talk to her about ex-boyfriends (hers of course) and tell her not to date boys and to love Jesus more instead. At 11, I’m certain that’s the advice she needs to hear.

One I met for the first time this summer on the day I was the discipline manager of getAHEAD. He didn’t know me at all and cussed me out for that and for me not letting him go to game time until he let me talk to him about what he had done. His dad came up to the church and told me through an interpreter that his son would not be coming any more. And then he came the next week and it took courage for me to smile at him when we passed in the hallways, not knowing if another curse word would come my way in the next second. I didn’t know where we stood. I did know, as I told him multiple times that day, that I loved him. Then on graduation night, he wrote me a note asking my forgiveness. He’s been my friend ever since.

As I drove him and three other boys home Wednesday and Thursday, we talked about how this is the best school they’ve ever been to, about how they want to play football, about Harry Potter and other books of possible interest, and about how they never want to abuse women the way they have seen men abuse some of their moms. I thought of that verse in Deuteronomy about teaching as you walk in the way.

On the way back, Bertha and I drove in silence. I thought about how this school is kind of like parenting. I thought about how, at 23, I’m not ready to parent twelve 11 to 13 year olds. I thought about how my heart is going to get broken. And I renewed my commitment to pray.

We add the high school on Tuesday. Last week the freshly-sharpened pencils and new slight chill (if 80 degrees can be called that) and answered prayer at every turn filled me with my general fall optimism. But tonight I’m feeling more like the man in Mark, crying out, “I believe; help Thou my unbelief!” It seems like more than I can do, more wisdom and patience than I have to give. But this I call to mind and therefore I hope: the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases. And it is better than life. His mercies never come to an end. Therefore, having this ministry by mercy, we do not lose heart.