". . . little shall I grace my cause

In speaking for myself. Yet, by your gracious patience,

I will a round unvarnish'd tale deliver . . ."

(William Shakespeare's Othello, I.iii.88-90)

Monday, February 25, 2008

Angels of Mercy

Angel: a messenger of the Lord (source: Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod).

Mercy: compassion or forbearance shown especially to an offender or to one subject to one's power (source: Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary).

Angels of Mercy: my son's long-suffering and patient teachers, Mrs. B. and Mrs. W. (source: Round Unvarnish'd Tale).

Since September, my four-year-old has been attending preschool three mornings a week for 2-1/2 hours. Although we homeschool our older two children and fully intend to do the same with this one when he reaches first grade, we have decided that for the time being it is of great benefit to both him and to our household for him to attend our church's day school. As a mom who works part-time while trying to manage the house and homeschool one high school and one junior high student, I currently have neither the time nor the energy to provide the sort of daily stimulation that I would like my four-year-old to have (I have never been the crafty, hands-on learning type and coming up with those kinds of activities is a major creative challenge for me). Additionally, in a household in which there is an 8-year gap in age between the youngest and the middle child, my littlest boy does not have a readily available playmate. So the time he spends at preschool interacting with other children his age, building with blocks, singing songs, listening to stories, and drawing and painting and playing with clay is time exceedingly well-spent for him and useful for the rest of the family as we benefit from a few uninterrupted instructional hours at home.

At the same time the little boy in question started preschool, he began attending Sunday School classes at our church. Within a few weeks of both classes beginning, I was hearing the same thing from both his teachers: "Evan's having a little difficulty adjusting to the routine, but don't worry, we're working on it."

We've been working on it all year. It's not that he's a total terror in the classroom (at least, I don't think he is), but he has definitely proven to be one of the difficult ones. It seems that most of the problems arise from his propensity for immediately vocalizing (and acting upon) whatever he is feeling at the time. If he doesn't want to do the prescribed activity, he says so; if he wants something that someone else has, he takes it; if he is unhappy with one of his classmates, he does not hesitate to physically demonstrate that unhappiness. Sometimes it seems that he stubbornly refuses to participate for no other reason than that it's what the teacher wants him to do.

There has been an ebb and flow to his behavior such that it is sometimes better and sometimes worse. But through it all, my little boy's own personal angels of mercy have stuck with him, gently but firmly correcting him and never making me feel like the mother of the "bad" child. For this I love these two women more than I can say.

I'll never forget a few months ago at church. My husband and I make a practice of trying to check on our son during Sunday School hour, just to see how things are going. But on this particular Sunday neither of us made it to class, and my daughter picked up my son for me. When I saw the Sunday School teacher walking into church a little later I lifted my eyebrows with that quizzical "how did he do?" expression. She shook her head regretfully and laid the truth out there: "Cheryl, he was bad. Really, really bad. He wouldn't sit, he wouldn't mind me, and at one point he fell down on the rug and claimed someone pushed him. But don't you worry about it . . . we managed, and if anyone says anything to you about it, you just send them my way." (That last part gives me visions of sad-faced parents standing around the Sunday School room, shaking their heads in pity at the parenting challenges that lie ahead for Cantor and his wife.)

This woman's attitude towards my son is in many ways a microcosm of our Lord's Law and Gospel. Sin is real and ubiquitous, and the Father in His righteousness cannot ignore it or brush it away. He points us to His Law, which shows us the truth of our sin, and when we acknowledge that sin and turn to Him in our helplessness, He opens wide arms of forgiveness and invites us to hide ourselves in His robes of righteousness.

And I think that is what I most appreciate about both of my son's teachers. No matter how many times he challenges them or complicates the lesson they have prepared for him and his classmates, the next class meeting is a new chance for him, a fresh start. When he enters the classroom they look at him not with dread--"oh, no, here comes that bad child"--but with love and enthusiasm, brightly welcoming him with a smile that remembers not what happened the day before.

In the same way, when we as children of the one true God confess our sins and repent of them, our Saviour smiles with compassion, freely offering the salvation won for us on the cross, and sends us on our way, saying, "Go in peace; you are forgiven. I remember your sins no more. And if anyone gives you any trouble about it, you just send him my way."

"But this is the convenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. and I will be their god, and they shall be my people. . . . For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more." (ESV, Jeremiah 31: 33-34)


elephantschild said...

What a great essay, my friend! This is how I feel about my dd's cello teacher. Always patient, sometimes stern, never mean. Always seeing the ability my daughter has under all that STUFF she does.

Which makes me say: Shall we just go ahead and set up the first date for our two kids? You and Glenda can fight over whose boy can go out with her first. :)

Cheryl said...

Ummm, please correct me if I'm mistaken, EC, but haven't they already had their first date? Or even their first two or three? To my mind, Evan's already far, far ahead in the courting of Sparkle (sorry Glenda). :-)

elephantschild said...

Sure, if you count taking turns whacking each other with toys a "date," then we're good to go.