The other day, a student who graduated last year stopped by to see me. From the moment he entered the room, I knew something was different. His eyes darted around & he had difficulty standing [or sitting] still.
“Hey. I just wanted to come say hi because I haven’t seen you in forever.“
It was good to see him. Although I never had him in class, he frequented my room in the mornings. Our conversations spanned a whole plethora of topics – college, life, religion, teaching, television, music, work, AP classes….I knew from other teachers he was a smart kid – sharp and witty. Chatting with him as I prepared for each day I saw this first hand.
The other day was different. Although our conversation started off at surface level – I found out he decided to go to Baylor for college – he quickly jumped head first into deep waters.
The whole time he was in my room, he fought back tears – his chin quivering right before he swallowed his emotions and proceeded with his story. He jumped around a lot – unable to focus on one topic. The pain in his eyes though was evident.
Long story short: I wanted to turn away.
I wanted to hold up my hand, get him to stop talking, and push him out the door.
It hurt too much – listening to how his life spiraled out of control. I didn’t want to know his family isn’t talking to him anymore. I didn’t want to know he turned away from the church because of judgment. I didn’t want to know he turned towards the only community he knew.
I definitely didn’t want to know how he thought his life meaningless and because of this, attempted to end it three times in the last few weeks.
But I did know. And something held me there – perhaps shock? Probably the Spirit. And as I stuck my finger in his face with tears in my eyes and choking out the words, “don’t you dare commit suicide. Don’t you dare….”
He smiled at me and said, “Mrs. Ramirez. Don’t cry. You’ll make me feel bad. You should probably start singing ‘You are my Sunshine’ – that always makes me smile.”
My heart broke.
I watched him leave after that – promising to check up on him via facebook and threatening him again with my watery eyes and shaky smile. “Your life isn’t meaningless to me – remember this. And please, be careful. These people you’re hanging with? They don’t play.”
He held up his hand, his lip curled up in a half-hearted attempt to grin. “Oh I know, Mrs. Ramirez. Trust me.”
I turned around, shutting the door behind me and facing the students who are in my classroom now. I glanced around – realizing the similarity between them and the one who just left. Twelve months ago, you would have seen no difference. Now? You hear scathing remarks coming from the peanut gallery as he shares his nightmare.
I’m still reeling today. And I think, for the first time, I’m beginning to truly understand what Andrew Klavan meant when he said, “sometimes we just have to play in the pain.”
Life is messy. People make mistakes.
But without the grittiness of the Cross, there would be no hope.
Without pain, there could be no redemption.
And if I believe there is hope for this student – which I do – then I have to take a moment and dwell in his pain.
This is the beauty of our faith. We all have stories – some more painful than others. If we aren’t sharing this pain – if we aren’t dwelling in the pain with others – than we aren’t fully accepting the gospel. We aren’t believing the power of the Cross.
Because [listen closely] – anyone can experience redemption. Anyone – despite the pain, despite the confusion – can experience hope.
I’m holding on to this truth for my student – and for now, I’m holding on to his pain – hopefully one day, his story of redemption will be complete.