I’ll be honest. I wasn’t quite sure I was up to the task.
I haven’t spent much time around kids with special needs. I can pretty much charm my way into most kids’ hearts. I can figure them out in a couple minutes and talk Batman or Barbies till we’re friends. I think of creative ways to teach them things. And I’m confident that if they got a headache or fell down or had some minor crisis, my capabilities would rise to the occasion with little difficulty.
But the kids who can’t hear me? Who don’t understand what I’m saying? Who can’t speak? Who aren’t even aware I’m there?
This morning, I was preparing to help in a public school’s special needs classroom for the first time. I was honestly very nervous. I just thought that with my lack of knowledge, experience, and skills, I was going to fail those kids, those teachers, and everyone else miserably. Quite honestly, there were moments where I regretted offering to help. “Wherever needed,” I’d said, trusting that the Lord would place me where He wanted me. But when I received my assignment, my selfishness replaced my altruism. Instead of seeing the great opportunity to help, to support, to strengthen, and to be taught new and amazing things, I was sad to not be able to march in and impress. Worried that my ego wouldn’t get the dose of atta-girl it craved. Pouty because I wouldn’t be admired for my abilities; and really, that my abilities that mattered in this application were few.
Funny how God humbles us as He cares for us.
The boys and I opened the Bible at breakfast. We’d started reading the book of Philippians a week ago. Guess where we picked up today. You won’t believe it, but I’m telling the truth.
“Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind, regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow… and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” – Philippians 2:3-11
Did I feel sheepish? Yes. No wonder I need a Good Shepherd.
I’ve studied this book many, many times and learned so much each time…things I was sure I’d never forget. This morning, though? I didn’t get it. I asked the boys how they thought it was possible to live like this…to do nothing out of selfishness; to truly look out for others’ interests; to think of others as more important than myself; to stop grasping the idea that I’m above serving others when it might leave me bruised and bloodied.
“We can’t,” was the answer.
“What should I do, then, when I find I don’t live like this?” They thought I was doing that Mama-the-Bible-Teacher thing. But I was really asking.
The answer came from the 4-year-old who’s usually more concerned with playing with his food than being a part of our discussion:
“You should pray to Jesus, and ask Him to make you new.”
Deep sigh. Did I really think I was going to go it alone today?
We finished up with this part of the passage:
“So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” – Philippians 2:12-13
The God who saved me by His own goodness…was He going to now let me walk out the door without Him? To prove something? To earn something?
I signed up to help because of His work in me.
I was given this assignment because of His work in me.
I walked into that classroom because of His work in me.
And I will not be ashamed, and He will not be ashamed of me. This is HIS WORK. When did I start thinking it was mine?
I prayed in the parking lot that God would give me what I needed for the task ahead, and, upon entering the classroom, realized that I should’ve been praying for Laura, Jenny, Pam, and Amanda instead.
Do you know what I saw? I saw four women who had chosen a job that required them to care for others above themselves. I saw a little boy, barely conscious, loved on and cared for by these ladies as if he were their son. I saw diapers on an 11-year-old changed without complaint. I saw determination in these teachers to strengthen their kids and see them grow, even if it meant their own comfort was compromised and their rest was minimized. And it is, daily.
What did I have to offer these kids? These ladies, with their hard-working hands?
Not much, really. That’s just the plain and simple truth. But….
I had the privilege of doing some exercises with a few of the kids. They were hilarious. Gabby, who’d refused to do the exercises earlier, agreed to do them with me. She felt sorry for the “new girl”.
I got to hold flash cards for Mark. He beamed with the best smile I’ve ever seen each time he’d get a sight word right.
I saw Lila fall in love with the word “home”. Truly. She hugged it. I heard that last year, she couldn't sit still. Here she is... reading and loving words.
I cleaned a bit for the ladies and listened to anything they felt like sharing. I didn’t feel like I’d really worked at all. And that was the most humbling part of the profuse thanks I received.
What does it take to live like Jesus? It takes Jesus. He’s got to live His life through you and I, or the equation falls apart. Me plus my effort still equals nothing. We are disabled at heart... we are not able to love as we were made to love. But Jenny works patiently with Gabby, and Gabby grows and changes. Jesus works patiently within us, and renews our minds and mends our hearts. We grow and change. It is HE who is at work; which means there’s no task of love that we can’t do. It is HE who makes us able.
Are you in over your head? I am. And it’s the best feeling. If we’re there, reader, that means we’re being invited to be propelled by the love and strength of the Almighty…to just show up and experience His hands at work. And we look forward to that day…when every knee will bow, and every tongue will confess.
You know who I want to be dancing with on that day?
The kids and teachers I met today in Room A5. Just imagine….