There was once a student in the Grade 8 class at the last school where I taught. She was loud and belligerent, she was a total behavior problem in her classroom, and as a result, everyone shunned her.
Because I was a Grade 5 French Immersion teacher on the first floor, and because she was on the English side, and the Grade 8 classrooms were all upstairs, I rarely had contact with her. It was only because I occasionally had lunch duty on her floor that I even realized she was a student at this particular school. She was, however, of such a loud and bossy personality that it didn’t take long on that first day of lunch duty to notice her. It also didn’t take me long to realize that the girl had no friends…
I felt sorry for the girl. I knew she was digging her own grave, so to speak, and I recognized that she was deeply troubled. I have to admit that I couldn’t help but wish they still had special classrooms for troubled kids. And my deprived mind took this further: With her anti-social behavior, she would never amount to anything. She would more than likely end up in Juvenile detention. Right here, in front of my eyes, gracing the hallways of my own school, stood one of the world’s next … criminals!
Even in the depths of my prejudiced thinking, however, I realized that her confrontational and argumentative stance were likely fueled by nothing more than the desire to be noticed…
Of course, we all have met such attention-seekers, and we know from first-hand experience that such actions will only seek attention of the negative kind. Yet, could it be that to these attention-seekers, negative attention is better than no attention? Could it be that giving this girl positive attention would help to calm her negative attempts to get the attention she craved?
I felt God compelling me to put this theory to the test, and I began going out of my way to seek this student out, to engage her in conversation, to reach out to her. As I did, I felt God placing a fatherly love on my heart for this girl. When I saw other students mistreating her, I spoke with those students and suggested they be nice to her; and as time went on, I began to see this broken, rejected girl as … my own daughter!
As God began working these changes into my heart, I began to notice changes in this student as well. She became more friendly. She quieted down. She stopped bullying the other students, and her grades improved. Even her interactions with me improved. She became really nice towards me, and she even began to call me “dad”. At the end of that school year, during the final school assembly, she volunteered to sing. She sang a beautiful Christian song, and everyone in the gym was amazed. Wasn’t this the “bad” student? The “troubled kid” that no one liked?
This girl’s mom was in the audience that day, and after the program the student led her mother directly towards me. She the gave me a big hug in front of her mother, and she said, “This is my teacher. He’s so cool!”
The Psalmist says, “I will exalt you, Lord, for you lifted me out of the depths and did not let my enemies gloat over me. Lord my God, I called to you for help, and you healed me. You, Lord, brought me up from the realm of the dead; you spared me from going down to the pit. Sing the praises of the Lord, you his faithful people; praise his holy name.” (Psalms 30:1-4 NIV)
In these power-packed verses, David is teaching us to look to God to lift us “out of the depths”. This includes the “depths” of our prejudices. David says, “do not let my enemies gloat over me.” This means that it is only with God’s help that we can overcome our misconceptions. When we call to God for help, when we allow Him to do this good work in our lives, He will heal us of our biases. He will resurrect us from the depths of our preconceived ideas and spare us from going down into the pit of misbelief and judgment.
This entire incident taught me a powerful lesson. Sometimes we can’t “punish” the “bad” out of kids. Sometimes our place is to love them like they are, to treat them like the special people God aspires them become. And when we do, our more positive attitudes have potential to significantly impact the very ones we held prejudices towards, opening the door for God to form them into the great people He knows they can be!
Give God your feelings towards the unlovable, and then be prepared to loved them and to show them you care. In doing so, you may be changing the course of their lives forever!
In His love,
(To access the entire “The Sling for God” devotional series, please click here.)