At the risk of sounding whiny I’d like to make an observation. I’ve been to countless baby showers and bridal showers where in the whirlwind of thrilling emotions a young, bright-eyed woman gets showered with gifts and advice and prayer. It’s beautiful and good. But then their baby arrives and refuses to sleep at night an no one is throwing a party then. Their new husband has to start working the overnight shift and it’s taking a toll on this fresh marriage and no one is throwing a party then. And then the baby grows up and the honeymoon stage wears off and life gets hard and complicated and messy and exhausting and there is no cake or party games or groups of women writing down advice on cards.
I vote we throw more parties.
I’ve been thinking a lot about this for 2 reasons:
1) We spent all last week partying. It was refreshing and good and a deep reminder of grace. We are walking through the Old Testament with our scholars and we had finished up the grand story of Moses and had talked about the law and how good God is to give it to us. But the law feels heavy at times; it is easy to start to believe that God is some cosmic police officer ready to slam you into a police car the second you screw up. So we remembered last week that God not only tells us what not to do, but gives a very clear command to throw good parties, to remember God’s faithfulness, to eat good food, to be with your pals, to remember that life is good because of God’s goodness that surrounds us. So we made time everyday to celebrate together. Some days it was spontaneous painting parties, some days we ate delicious desserts…even for breakfast. We went to the Royals parade, we dressed up like superheroes and ate popcorn in hammocks. We practiced looking for what’s good around us and then being quick to say thanks. If I’m honest, on Thursday I wanted to stop celebrating; I wanted to smash the cupcakes in front of the kids and throw them away. I wanted them to feel the weight of sin and I wanted it feel crushing. Let me explain. I drive the bus. It’s an interesting job because you’d think that driving a massive vehicle would make you feel powerful but it produces the exact opposite result. You’re responsible for 25 little lives and when they are making poor choices you are pretty powerless to do much about it. You can pull the mom card and threaten to “pull the car over” which I have admittedly done my fair share of times, but that’s about it. So on Thursday, after several trips to the side of the road and reminders and consequences we got to the school and I was done. After the kids got out I sat in the drivers seat and let a few little tears finally breakout. I walked into the school only to remember that Thursday was the day we were going to celebrate by having cupcakes for breakfast. The behavior of these kids on the bus that morning did not merit a celebration. I had to restrain myself from snatching up every cupcake and proving a point with them. God in His goodness stopped me from ruining a divine moment. When I walked in there were many guilty eyes looking at me, eyes that new I was frustrated, eyes that knew full-well that they didn’t deserve a cupcake. But our week was not set aside to celebrate because they had earned it, it was set aside to celebrate because God earned it for us, through Jesus. We got to eat cupcakes because mercy found us.
2) After this breaking point, I realized we are in over our heads. I know I know, I’ve realized that a thousand times, but lately the reality that we are shepherding 30 little hearts is overwhelming. Many of those hearts are deeply wounded. They act out of fear, they reflect the brokenness of the world around them, they are needy, and they hurt others. We spent all this week having really hard conversations about repentance.We’ve talked about the difference between saying “I’m sorry” to get out of a consequence (only to repeat the offense again and again) and true repentance. We’ve repented for flipping people off, bringing a knife to school and carving up the bus seat, writing notes about people using the “f” word, calling peoples’ moms a “b”, fighting, lying, stealing, and the list goes on. And the reality is, if you came to our school, you probably wouldn’t see any of those things. You might even think to yourself “they’ve got this under control” (depending on if one of our frequent flyers wasn’t throwing a huge tear-filled fit in the hallway because her pinky toenail hurts). But the beauty and endless potential we see in our kids causes us to have extremely high expectations of them. Their sensitive hearts and perceptive encouragement and curious demeanors instill a sense of urgency within us to see their best. And when the beauty has a flip side— an ugly sinful flip side, we’re left feeling defeated. I’ve felt utterly defeated. I’ve asked over and over again, what’s the point of having a different kind of school if everyone inside of it acts the same as those in regular schools? Then I thought about baby showers and I felt sorry for parents. The baby is pretty easy to be excited about when it’s a cute little blob on a sonogram, when it starts calling people names at school and you feel like a failure…well it’s in those moments you need a party where you eat cupcakes for breakfast and remember God’s goodness and grace and mercy.
As silly of an analogy as it is, we kinda feel like UCA is a baby. We skipped the birthing classes and delivered this beast on the fly, we joyfully celebrated as it learned to take it’s first steps and say it’s first words, and now when it’s acting out at school we feel like we’d like to find the manual or the script or something. But just as parents all around the world have found, there is no manual and the script is constantly changing.
I won’t lie, it’s hard. It’s hard to watch people you love making terrible decisions. It’s hard to not say, “do you know how much I’ve done for you and this is how you repay me!” It’s hard to not own the mistakes of our scholars as our own failings. It makes us all so grateful for the many nights our parents sat in turmoil wondering what they heck they did bringing us into this world and trying to figure out how to shape us into humans instead of the monsters we acted like. It makes us want to throw parties for parents when their kids are in elementary school, and when they enter the dark days of middle school, and the terrifying years of being a teenager. It’s tough work shaping lives…so we vote we throw more parties.
If you want to party with us, our next party is coming up real soon! We’re going to celebrate the goodness of Christmas by hopping on the school bus and exploring Christmas lights around the city. We’ll have hot chocolate and pie and much merriment for all! Get your ticket today and take a night to remember that God is good and His mercy came and found us. Even when we didn’t deserve it.