Last week was the first week of school for my kids. And it was a really challenging week for me. First there are the challenges we all face of trying to advocate for our kids and make sure they have the best possible experience. And then there are all the ways the school environment pushes my buttons. Like a lot of people, I had unique challenges that made school difficult for me to navigate when I was young. Now as a parent, once I’ve become concerned that one of my kids is not being set up to succeed, I find that my body reacts just to being on the school campus. Lots of old feelings come up - feelings of disconnection, helplessness, loneliness, and anger. In my imagination the school becomes a terrible place that will eat my children alive if I don’t find a way to save them. All last week, I found myself working hard to try to stay engaged, to advocate assertively for my kids, and to be full of gentleness and grace rather than getting upset or angry. Reading these words through the week helped me tremendously.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person.” - Matt. 5:28-29
No, I don’t think any of the people I’ve met at my kids’ schools are evil people. I suspect the vast majority of them are quite well intentioned. But I figure that, if I’m supposed to be graceful toward people who actually intend evil, certainly I should be at least as graceful toward people I’m merely not seeing eye to eye with.
The word resist has always been confusing to me. It sounds like Jesus is saying I should just go along with whatever someone with a terrible idea wants to do. I’m not certain that’s always the right choice, especially when someone else might get hurt. But another possible translation is “do not oppose an evil person.” Using the word “oppose” helps me think about this in a way that makes more sense to me and also makes me feel more convicted about how I’m engaging people in real situations. Opposing someone implies making a choice to align oneself against that person. So I’ve been trying to practice never getting adversarial with people, but continuing to seek out partnership with them, even when they push my buttons by not seeming to me like they have my children’s best interests in mind. Jamie and I have talked a lot in the last week about how important it is to us to advocate for the best possible situation for our kids and also how important it is to us not to become oppositional with teachers or principals we are having trouble working with. For me, that often looks like just continuing to be friendly and appreciative while persistently asking for better solutions rather than letting myself get upset or take offense.
It has been a challenging week. I wasn’t perfect. And we did end up deciding we needed to find a different school for one of our kids. But we did succeed in pursuing partnership and not opposition with everyone involved. It felt good to keep returning our focus to what sort of people we want to be and to strive in a new way to be at peace with everyone. This helped our advocacy to be successful. And it brought about feelings of connectedness and empowerment in me. Here is a prayer for us this week:
Jesus, thank you for your words of wisdom and love. Help us to pursue peace with everyone around us, both when that means being gracious in smaller day-to-day challenges with others and in those rarer occasions when that means being remarkably and unreasonably gracious in the face of truly abusive behavior. Let the way that we live and carry ourselves in all situations reflect the confidence we have in our identity as God’s children, and let it grow that confidence more and more. Let it be a demonstration of your amazing love to everyone we interact with. Amen.
Love in Christ,