His empty eyes caught my attention the second I stepped foot onto the school bus.
As we rode to our field trip destination, it would have appeared that I was the one misplaced in that giggly and energetic world of third graders. But I could tell that he was actually the one – one nine year old going on nineteen – whose life circumstances had taken him to a completely different place.
No chaperone in her right mind would volunteer to take on this one.
He was fidgety and fussy and rebellious. Unrelenting in seeking attention. Asking for love the only way he knew how.
When the group went one way, he went another.
When the teacher asked for silence, he ramped it up to a whole new level.
When the class tried to move forward, his defiance delayed progress every time.
But for some reason I couldn’t take my eyes off of him. When no one was looking, he let down his guard long enough that I caught a glimpse of the quiet longing in his eyes.
The longing to be rescued. To be seen, to be known, and to be loved and accepted anyway.
Don’t make eye contact. If you do it will get complicated.
But the Spirit of God – as He so often gently moves – wouldn’t let me look away. Jesus wouldn’t look away.
I bent down to his level, looked into those lost eyes, and whispered softly, “Hey, I sure would like it if I could hang out with you today.”
He was unsure.
Had anyone ever willingly asked to be in his world?
But little by little, kindness would be shown.
Laughter would come.
Trust would be gained.
And words of the hard and the hurt eventually began to overflow from a boy who had experienced more in his nine-year-old life than I had in all of my forty-four years.
It wasn’t convenient.
It wasn’t easy.
It wasn’t popular.
But it was right where God wanted me to be…
“The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. The Lord is good to all, and his mercy is over all that he has made.” – Psalm 145:8-9
By the time we loaded the bus for home, his personal space had narrowed and he didn’t hesitate to squeeze his way into the tight spot in the seat between my daughter and me.
When he asked what we’d be doing that weekend, I told him that our family was going to church.
“My grandma takes me to church sometimes,” he offered, his eyes brighter than before.
And right then and there, God did what He does best – opening doors with the people and in the places we sometimes least expect.
We talked about Jesus and His love for all people…
The One who rescues the drowning.
The One who sees and has compassion on the rebellious.
The One who extends mercy to even the vilest of offenders.
The One who knows us, forgives us, and because of His great grace, loves and accepts us anyway.
And smack in the middle of that giggly and energetic world of third graders, he lowered his head and humbly whispered, “I believe…”
Three days in the belly of a fish wouldn’t completely transform Jonah’s heart, but there would be another three days that changed everything…
Jonah ran away from his enemies, but Jesus ran to His.
Jonah pursued self-preservation, but Jesus came as a sacrifice.
Through Jesus’s death, burial, and resurrection His grace has appeared, bringing salvation (Titus 2:11). Hallelujah, what a Savior!
Now it’s our turn. With the power of God behind us, let’s go love the loveless…
At His feet,
Let’s talk: What has God shown YOU through His Word as we’ve studied the book of Jonah together?
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Thank you Ladies! I haven’t done one of your studies in a while because my FB group fell apart. Please know this was no fault of yours. But our Lord brought me back to you. So I study on my own. What a blessing this study has been. Praise God that he has you all teaching his word! God Bless you all! I can’t wait until the next study. Whitney thank you for this story. Oh God is so good!!!!
Wow. This study has rocked me…humbled me… Thank you so much for all you guys do at LGG.
I found this post very powerful. I am a 4th grade teacher and I know far to many kids like the one you meet on the field trip. It can be disheartening when you see so many. I also work in a public school so I can’t always openly share about my faith. Thank you for taking time with that student and sharing your success. It gives me hope and some renewed strength for when I go in on Monday and see my student, just like him.