Two Fridays ago I left work, my heart brimming with emotion.
Our first week back to school was an amazing success. On the first day of classes, I was bum-rushed by a stampede of teenagers excitedly giving me hugs and gushing about their summers– the good, the bad, and well… the mundane, as most kids’ summers usually feel.
Returning students chatted with each other and welcomed new students with open arms, showing them the “ropes” and explaining that we are a family first and a school second. Walls were broken down, new relationships were started, and progress was made, academically as well as personally.
I say it a lot, but I will say it again: I am stunned that I get to work in this school that so clearly has God’s finger prints all over it.
I am honored to work with such uplifting coworkers who are such wonderful depictions of Christ’s love to our students and each other.
I am humbled that students trust me enough as their teacher and “big sister” to talk to me about their deepest, darkest fears and secrets.
I simply don’t understand how on earth I have the privilege of working with these kids whom I love so much. And yet the longer I work here, the more I realize that my love is so finite in comparison to how much God loves them, whether they are currently following Him or not…
Any who, after work on Friday, as a tiny act of celebration, I went to Chubby’s (Yes, the original Chubby’s on the northside for all of my students reading this…) and took some incredibly unhealthy Mexican food to go.
I drove around in circles for a while until finally deciding to park my car on top of a hill in Sunnyside and eat there, looking out at the city.
As I sat and munched on my dinner, staring at the Colorado sunset bouncing off the buildings of downtown Denver, the stories of my students, new and old, ran through my head.
Stories of drug abuse and alcoholism. Generations of gang warfare, death, and retaliation. Domestic abuse, sexual abuse, and verbal abuse. Stories of students who have been institutionalized for health reasons, as well as legal reasons. Stories of self harm and harm to the people around them. Stories like the ones we read about everyday in the newspaper, accompanied by statistics and photos.
Before long, I found myself broken, pathetically weeping over my green chili cheese fries, praying that my students wouldn’t become just another statistic or story in the Denver Post.
So many of the kids I love so much are desperately in need of the Gospel.
Some of my students have heard the Gospel since coming to DSS and have been swept off their feet by God. Others continue to run away from Him and back into the destructive patterns and habits that are so familiar to them… only to be run over by life time and time again.
It is a heartbreaking and vicious cycle to watch, but I know that even in the midst of the consequences of their own actions and the actions of those around them, that God is there, working for His Good as well as theirs.
After all, these students are still with us and seem to always make their way back to the Street School when they leave.
These students– the broken and hurting ones, as well as the mending and joyful ones– are all at a crossroad within the walls of our school everyday. Every decision– to go to biology or to cut class, to have self control or to flip out on their peers– is a crossroad for them.
And as I sobbed over my dinner and thought about this, I looked up and saw the most fitting sight I’ve seen in a while.
To the side of the telephone pole I had parked by, there were two directional signs pointing either way. For roughly the first fifteen minutes that I stared at this scene from my car, I failed to notice them. But once I saw them, a bigger picture began to emerge.
The sign pointing to the left immediately drew my eye to the graffiti covered building across the street from me. With its windows smashed out and covered in plywood, it seemed to represent where my students come from. The desolation, the pain and brokenness. Not only do my students come from neighborhoods that physically look like this building, but this building also mirrors the relationships in their lives and often, their perceptions of themselves.
The directional arrow on the right points into what seems to be the unknown– mostly because my little iPhone camera couldn’t capture the entire view. (Yes, I know about panoramic photos. No, I wasn’t thinking about such things while I was emotionally eating chili cheese fries and praying; Silly me.)
However, had I been able to capture the view to my right, you would’ve seen the stunning pinks, blues, and purples in the sky over the mountains and the magnified beauty of the same scene reflecting off the buildings of Denver– a sunset that could literally take your breath away.
For me, this is so much more than just a photo on my phone; it’s representative of how my students view life.
They can’t see the beauty that lies ahead– the beauty that comes from being swept off their feet by the love of God. Often, they can’t see their bright futures or the color that they are capable of painting into the world with their personalities and gifts.
All they can see is their past and the crossroad directly in front of them.
Please pray for my coworkers and I as we stand in the gap with them– as we try to show them the love of Christ and give them tiny glimpses of what their lives could be like with Him.
Pray that we would have wisdom to be able to speak color and life into them, even when we are exhausted and would rather just take the easy way out.
Pray that my students would be receptive to the Light and begin making positive choices and right turns when they come to the hundreds of crossroads they face each day.
Pray that we all would be able to see the breath-taking sunsets and skylines our own lives– that we wouldn’t lose sight of the goodness of God while we walk into the darkness everyday.
“This is what the Lord says, ‘Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.”