Getting Home

By Amy A.

I was driving down to Devlin today, about to make the final turn that would lead to the PEACE building, when suddenly, I really, really didn’t want to. Didn’t want to turn. Wanted to keep driving straight. Yeah, not what you might think is the ideal way to start off the 2012-13 (after)school year, just plain not wanting to.

But lack of desire wasn’t really the problem. Do I want to be a part of this work? Oh, yes. Do I resent any little bit I may have given up in order to be there? Certainly not. I grow more in love with the Lord and His children every moment that I spend in this place. Every day that I pull into my parking space in front of building #20, I’m surrounded by kids who are glad to see me and who know that I am just as elated to be with them. I get the sense that I am walking into a garden, surrounded by beautiful, progressing life—all of us in a process, some healthier than others, some short, some tall, some wild and untamed, some elegant and majestic, (most somewhere in between), and all of it miraculous. I have not abandoned the wonder of having the privilege of walking and working and laying down my own roots in this garden. That is not why I was so reluctant to make the turn today.

You see, had I not turned, I would have come to Number 10—our first building, the community room where the program began before I became a part, the place I first came to when I did start coming. Don’t get me wrong, our new building is definitely an upgrade… definitely. Still, irrationally, I couldn’t help feeling as if, if I would just keep driving, if I’d just go park in my old spot in front of #10 and sit down on the old bench beside the front door, and if I’d just wait there in my old spot, praying under my breath and basking in the late summer sun like I used to, then maybe, just maybe, my old friends would come and sit with me there. Friends that lived in Devlin then—a year ago, when we were at #10—but who don’t anymore.

Maybe we could chat and chill while we awaited the arrival of the team member in possession of the key. Maybe I could ask her about her day and give her advise on her little relationships, or maybe I could wash the dirt off his face and teach him to stay out of the street when the bus is coming. Maybe then I would know how they are and where they are and what they’re putting in their mouths and whether they did their homework and whether they understood their math lesson today. Maybe then I could hold them in my arms as much as I still do in my heart. Maybe then I wouldn’t have to let go.

It’s not that I worry about the ones I don’t see anymore. God’s sovereign hand has been on me all my life, and since I believe that so firmly, it is not hard to believe that His hand is big enough for everyone else’s lives too; He is no respecter of persons. The weight of even beginning to fret about all the areas of “our” kids’ lives that we have no control over is incredible, and not for us to carry. What is granted us, though, fits us better, and is far more precious. It was the treasure I discovered while still at #10.

I started helping “full time” at the afterschool program at the beginning of the 2011-12 school year. After just a few days of being saturated in the lives of a dozen or so little people with whom I had become enthralled, my head was spinning, and I felt the need to do more. I felt the weight of beginning to fret about the areas of their lives over which I had no control. And I brought it to the Lord.

“What do I do, God? What on earth can I possibly do in the span of eight hours per week that will make any kind of difference in the scope of their lives… their precious, desperate, little lives?”

Still and small, gentle and patient, sovereign and holy, He answers. The answer flows straight from His heart, His character, His just and kind ways. He speaks the truth. I know it’s true, because I know Him, and this is what He does: “You keep going back. Be there.”

Eight hours a week. You go back. A cramped room where all the chairs back into each other and the only quiet space is a room where you have to literally climb around in order to sit behind the desk. You keep going. A drafty garage where we play foosball and musical chairs all winter long. You’ll be there. You have to send someone home for uncontrollable aggression, but you’ll see him tomorrow. We’ll start fresh then, and he’ll get another chance, because you’re coming back. You’ll be there.

You have no quick fix or easy answer. You don’t even have any variety in the selection of snacks you offer–just a ton of Fiber One bars, all the same flavor. You’ve used up all the ways that could possibly exist for explaining this one math problem. You’ve never been beat up by bullies or had a boyfriend; how in the world will you advise kids on what to do with these and so many other ridiculous situations their world has put them into? What can you do?

You don’t have a pat answer, but you do have a heart. You don’t have a magic formula to fix it all, but you do have two hands and two feet. You have a high school diploma. You have the Holy Spirit. You have a smile and a voice and some insight and experience. So you take what you have and you put it out there, humbling as that is, and you leave it with Jesus.

The treasure I got while at #10, the burden Jesus gave me in exchange for coming back, the burden that’s light and easy… in a manner of speaking… is friendship. Entrance into the garden. Eventually, the earth closed over my heart’s roots, and in the light of the Sun, all of us kids, big and little, began to embrace each other and to grow up together.

So, obviously, it hurts when somebody leaves, when things change. Part of me gets ripped away when one of my friends does, and even though the wound closes, it’s never quite the same. It is tempting to want it to be the same. To want not to turn. To sit your butt in your old spot and wish beyond reason for the old day and old friends to come back to you.

But. If continuing to come back is part of making a home, then finding the courage to go forward is just as much a part of getting home.

Home–where Jesus’ rule is absolute, where there are no tears, no bullies, and no expired fiber bars. Home is not behind us. We did not lose it with the old day, or an old building, or an old friend. It is still ahead of us, still beckoning us from the other side of Heaven. And that is what gives us the strength keep going back, or to turn when it’s time to, to hold on tight to the friends we have, or to let go when we must, to embrace each season as it comes. Because God has made everything beautiful in its time, and He has set eternity in our hearts.

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