Psalm 27:14 says to wait for the Lord, that I shall see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.
Well, last night, I got a wonderful example of what this means.
Years ago, one of my favorite (not that I have favorites… teachers don’t do that, bruh ;0)) students graduated. We’ll call her Violet. Violet had been through some tough circumstances as she grew up. Her father left when she was young and her mother passed away during band camp her senior year. My wife and I, along with a few of her closest friends, went and sat with her outside of the hospice facility late into the night after her mom passed, talking and laughing and crying and figuring out what was next.
Violet even came to camp the next day for a few hours. I asked her, “Why are you here?” And she said, “You guys are the only family I have, now.”
Anyway, she graduated with big plans for her life. She was an amazing singer and played guitar very well. Violet was going to open a cafe one day and have open mic nights so that people like her could have a place to perform. She was going to go to school for business and perform all kinds of music with all kinds of people and it was going to be great! She was going to conquer the world.
Violet got several jobs locally, mostly waiting tables, not because that was all what she find but also because that’s the smart thing to do if you’re going to open a restaurant one day. Violet started looking into some classes at the local community college. She was staying with one of her mom’s friends and their family and it was going well.
But things started to unravel.
Turns out, staying with people with their own families and their own problems is difficult over time. So Violet relocated to a different house with a friend. That didn’t work out, either.
Meanwhile she’d reconnected with her dad, which caused another level of stress and heartache. He lives up north, and though he maintained contact with her after her mom died, he didn’t provide much in the way of emotional support. After all, he had his own family that he had to care for now, too.
All these people in her life had families, none of which she felt a part.
Meanwhile, the new friends she was making at her job were not as… wholesome… as I would have liked. Her evening activities were becoming less and less focused on her goals and more focused on other things. Her old friends from high school that I keep in touch with told me what was going on, but eventually they didn’t know, either. Violet’d stopped talking to them, too.
After a couple years of this, she up and moved without telling anyone. She headed for other part of the US with a boy she’d fallen in love with. He was pretty cool; I met him once. It was sudden and sad, but it was kind of exciting for those of us who care for her. Maybe getting out of her current situation and trying out her wings would help her finally make it, realizing her dreams or even making some new ones.
My wife and I watched all of this from the tables of the restaurant that Violet had worked at for so long.
When she got the job not long after graduation, we tried to go once a week to visit. We’d go and request her table, and she’d sit and chat with us if she wasn’t busy. Even when we didn’t get her table, she’d always come over and say hi. She was kind to our kids and always seemed to be smiling and having a good time.
Then we went to the restaurant one day and she wasn’t there. She’d left with her boyfriend, as I mentioned.
And she was gone for a while… until she came back.
My wife and I saw her at the same restaurant one night. Apparently they had given her her job back. We were shocked! We hadn’t seen her in a long time. We made some attempts to get her attention, but she didn’t make eye contact. We didn’t know what to do, since we weren’t sure if we had upset her in some way or not. She didn’t answer our texts and calls welcoming her back, asking how she was. Eventually we stopped reaching out, giving her space and patiently hoping and praying that the relationship could be restored. Psalms 27, remember. :-)
That was about two years ago that Violet came back. Then last night happened.
My little family rolled up into the parking lot of that same restaurant. The parking lot was full, so my wife parked the car while I ran inside to see how long the wait was. And it was pretty full… so I asked the hostess how long the wait was.
“No wait. How many?”
She took me back to the table. I sat down and called my wife letting her know we had a table.
I put my phone down and looked up. I saw Violet coming over. We were at her table! We hadn’t been at her table in years! I had a moment of panic. What was she going to do? Would this be awkward beyond belief?
She stopped. “Is it okay to hug?” she said.
“Of course!!” I said, jumping out of my chair.
My fears melted away. She apologized for being so standoffish. She was embarrassed for the choices she’d made and was worried about how my wife and I would react. I told her that she never had to worry about that with us, that we would always be there for her. We both smiled and laughed and she sat down for a second but then my wife and kids came in. Violet jumped back up and hugged my wife and then said hi to our kids. My oldest girl didn’t remember her, and was shy… I think that hurt most of all… she used to love Violet and would ask about her all the time.
So we stayed, we ordered, we ate. Though it was pretty busy, Violet came over a lot. She mostly made small talk with my oldest daughter, making faces, noises, silly jokes… it was awesome. We stayed way longer than we usually do. The dinner rush died down and Violet spent more time with us. It was lovely.
At the end of dinner, we put on our coats. Violet came out and gave us her new phone number (ahhh, so that explains all the unanswered texts over the years! :-)) and hugged us goodbye. My oldest daughter gave her a ferocious hug, as she does, and even our adorable bundled-up two-year-old tottered over to Violet with arms outstretched. Violet told us she was “gettin’ it togetha” and would stay in touch. She missed us and loved us. We said the same.
As I walked out to the car, fighting back tears, my heart full, I couldn’t help but thank God for all that He’s done for me. He’s allowed me to maintain relationships with my students long after they leave me. The impact that we teachers have on our students goes far beyond what we see in the classroom. It’s like having hundreds of surrogate sons and daughters that go out into the world each year, some of whom I’ll never see again.
And this all reminded me of the prodigal son from Luke 15. The father, whose son leaves the house and blows his entire inheritance, waits on the porch for him to return. And when that son comes back, the father runs out to meet him. The son, crying and begging for forgiveness, is cut off by the father, who is exuberant and immediately prepares a feast for his son. It didn’t matter to him that his son blew everything he had and made terrible decisions. He loved him and he was home… and that’s what mattered.
So I’m excited to see our relationship with Violet restored. And I’m hopeful that she will turn her life around and that she’ll do amazing things. Because she can. This young woman can do anything. And my wife and I will stand by her no matter what. Because that’s what we ought to do.
Wait for the Lord, and see what goodness He will do in this life.
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