I simply tried to quiet the reverberating comments that seemed to continue out like ripples from a rock tossed into a pond, finding their way to my heart. “Everyone get busy with your morning work. We'll be going to the computer lab very shortly.” I responded.
As I sat down at the teacher's desk to fill in the attendance sheet, something began weighing heavy on my heart. The honesty with which students fill me in with information on certain students, when I substitute in classrooms, can often be hurtful but insightful. I'm then aware of my own choices to agree with their comments, labels and judgments. Often I hear things like “He (or she) has to sit there, because they are bad. He(or she) always gets in trouble. Quite frankly, having been a classroom teacher, I'm aware of the issues that children bring into the classroom with them.
As a substitute, I often need the help of a few responsible students, and perhaps some days have had a mind set that one day in the classroom does not give one time to become a life changer. When I had daily interaction with students, I was able to see the progression and maturity of students. At the end of a school year, I could often see the ways my love for the students made a difference. As I called out the names of the individual students on this day, I remember distinctly how God gave me pause when speaking the name of the girl without a voice. I slipped her a smile as I checked off her name.
It wasn't long before she found her way to the desk and without a word handed me her work. It was incomplete. Rather than draw attention to the absence of answers on this piece of paper, I heard God speak through my lips perhaps the words she'd wanted to hear for a very long time. “Id love to hear your voice. If you decide you'd like to talk to me today, I'll be here waiting.” And so the waiting began.
Computer lab and bathroom break, math and reading and even lunch, when the walls seem to come down for everyone, and all the while I watched and almost felt the silence was so deep it was impenetrable. Now anyone who's been around a school knows how long the trip from classroom to the playground can be, students and teachers alike. The desire to let go and break the quietness of the classroom builds as teachers “shush” the students and students feel the anticipation build as they break free of the building and dash in a dozen directions.
Finding a seat on a bench with a couple of girls who apparently didn't feel too excited about physical activity, I listened to the usual chatter of girl talk, keeping my eyes on the students who were hard at play. It wasn't long before “the silent one” sidled up to me and just watched as the girls by my side as the girls next to me picked clovers and wild daisies. For a time, they held the clovers up to the sun and gave me my very first sideways view of the tiny hairlike petals bees find so attractive on a spring day. We all were amazed at the beauty of something we'd never seen before.
Suddenly bored with this activity, the girls skipped off to join the class and I was left holding a fistful of daisies as I looked up at her big brown eyes. “He loves me, He loves me not,” I chanted as I removed one petal after the other. A small smile crept across her face as I continued one of my favorite childhood games. And then she took one in her own hand and began to say the words like me, “He loves me, He loves me not.” Unfortunately, each of three times, the outcome was not what she had hoped. I sensed a growing frustration with the results and was reminded of my own feelings as a child when a simple flower seemed to pronounce “NOT LOVED” repeatedly until I'd give up and find another game to play.
Call it a God moment, a revelation, a knowing. Whatever I might call it, I recognized this child's need to hear the words, “He loves me.”
“Why don't you start on this side and go around,” I suggested. Thankfully, this time the number of petals worked out perfectly and a smile as wide as a pie spread across her face as she declared, “He LOVES me! And I became a witness to something beautiful that perhaps her classmates had not yet seen. Three simple words that I believe changed one girl's heart for a day.
“You know my name is the same as yours,” I informed her. “It means favored one...bright and shining fame.” I said. “Really?” she asked as if she were afraid to believe it. Her smile grew wider...and then it happened. The words came falling from her lips like a waterfall tumbling over a high mountain, unstoppable. Her voice was unfettered as she chattered on and on, still fingering and pulling petals from tiny daisies. There seemed no need to call out a verdict any longer, as I listened and she broke free for one day from the silence that may still hold her captive.
It was a gift she gave me that day... hearing her voice. I continue to hope and pray I gave her a gift as well. The invitation I extended as God prompted me to say, “I'd love to hear your voice,” obviously opened the door for communication, just a crack. In a million years, I couldn't have orchestrated this moment in the way it played out. As I've thought back over this day, repeatedly, I realized I've felt the same trepidation and fear perhaps this young girl may feel. When it comes to my relationship with God, I have often had apprehension and expectation of hearing the words, “He loves me NOT.” We are judged by others and often found to be lacking. We expect Him to view us as others who have judged us and found us to be lacking something essential they require to make us acceptable. He, however, delights in bringing a smile to our face. We are each “His favored one.”
One silent child and one tiny daisy have helped me see more clearly. He longs for each of us to see ourselves with a new perspective, like the clovers held up to the sun, amazing and beautiful in ways we've never seen before. He longs to break through the walls we've erected to protect our hearts. He's finding ways every day to say “I LOVE YOU.” He longs to hear our voice declaring our love for Him. He's waiting.