A ten year old boy sat across the table from me. His teacher sent him to my door two or three times a week. Maybe she thought the school counselor could fix him. Or maybe she needed a break from his challenging behaviors in her classroom.
I watched his hands reach for the smiley face stress ball in the basket. His face did not match the one on the yellow foam ball. He squeezed it, rolled it, and tossed it in the air. “What are you here for today, Michael?” (Not his real name, of course)
“Oh, you know, Mrs. Rogers.” He tossed it in the air again.
“I want you to tell me about it.”
A little too loudly, he said, “I try to be good! I try so hard, but I just can’t. I tell myself every day that I’m going to mind the teacher and do my work, and not be bad in school. Then, I don’t know what goes wrong, but it always does. When I want to do good, I can’t. I don’t want to be bad, but I do bad stuff anyway. I know we’ve talked about this a lot, but I can’t help it.”
I realized that this kid was quoting Romans 7. He didn’t know it, but his version was so close to what Paul had said in verses 15-25.
Michael’s problems were complex and not easily fixed. He had experienced too much adversity in his young life and came to our school with physical challenges as well as deep set emotional scars. His on-going home instability undermined his chances of success in the classroom.
School counselors have an arsenal of strategies to address these issues, and there are multi-disciplinary teams to focus on the many contributing factors, but often it’s not enough.
In the public school setting, I couldn’t use the “J” word. I couldn’t whip out my Bible and show him that what he had expressed was similar to ancient words written two thousand years ago. What a missed opportunity.
I could tell him that everyone has limitations, and sometimes we all act in ways that we aren’t proud of. But I couldn’t tell him that we all need a Savior to change our heart and our desires, and that He can transform our will – or our unwillingness.
I listened to Michael when he visited my room on a regular basis and used all the tools at my disposal. I could pray for him, but not with him. I could pray for his family and his teacher. Also I prayed that the Lord might send someone into his life who could tell him about the love and forgiveness of Jesus, who saves us and helps us “do good.”
How many Michaels do you think there are out there, Church?