Sawyer clung to my legs this morning and sobbed into my stomach. I heard muffled repetitions of, “I don’t want to go! I don’t want to change! Nobody asked me if I wanted to move.” I rubbed his back as my heart pounded and I fought the urge to snatch him up and run from the school. I felt torn by the need to ease his pain and the knowledge that he would be probably be ok as soon as he stepped through the classroom door…probably.
Sawyer’s first month in his new school has been full of very high highs and very low lows. Weeks one through three, he walked out of his first grade classroom at the end of the day with a big smile on his face, but by the time we got to the car, he melted into tears and worry and confusion as he tried to explain what happened in school. Making friends was not as easy as he thought it would be; the school was bigger than he thought it would be; the procedures were more foreign than he thought they would be.
Ryan and I reassured Sawyer that sticking it out would pay off. We promised he would feel more comfortable every day and prayed over him that he would feel the Holy Spirit’s presence. We also reminded him God had him at this school for a purpose. Maybe there was a kid in his class who desperately needed a Sawyer in his/her life. I mean, come on, EVERYONE needs a Sawyer!
At the beginning of week three, all of those tears and talks and reassurances paid off, and Sawyer ran to meet his friends as soon as we got to the drop off spot in the morning with a barely-audible, “Love you, Mama,” tossed over his shoulder. My heart soared and broke at the same time. We had just gotten a notice that Sawyer was on an overflow list to be transferred to a different school. The elementary school was overenrolled by fifty kids. The principal told me she was doing everything in her power to come up with a solution, but in that moment I thought I was going to have to tell Sawyer he had to go through all of it again right when the earth was starting to feel more solid again under his feet.
And I was mad. I was so mad. I fumed at the California education powers that be. I talked to everyone who might know a way to have Sawyer stay put. I prayed angry prayers through hot tears:
“Please, Lord, not Sawyer.”
“He’s been through too much these past three years.”
“He needs stability.”
“He doesn’t need another huge transition right now.”
I had a lot of reasons why this should not happen. Sawyer had done everything we asked him to do. He had been brave. He had been kind. He had persevered and fought for a good attitude. I didn’t want to tell him all of his efforts were for nought. I didn’t want this majorly mismanaged way of handling kids to scar him or make him less trusting or mar his outlook on the world.
During a conversation with my lovely friend, Lindsay, I realized I was believing a lie. I trusted God to equip me for whatever would come my way, but I did not believe he would equip my children. I felt I had to stand in that gap somehow, and much of my desperation over the school situation stemmed from how impossible it was to be equipped enough for everyone in my family. Lindsay said, “You know, Cait, these hard moments are going to happen to Sawyer no matter what you do. And they will form him. So far the really hard moments in Sawyer’s life have formed him into a phenomenal kid.”
With those wise words, I was able to quiet the riot in my heart. I turned my eyes to the one who has formed my boys into incredible little men of God. They have seen more pain than they should have in their young lives, but God has been faithful to use pain to shape them into boys who love fiercely, feel compassion, ask deep questions, and live for others (most of the time;-) Even though I know most of my hurt over Sawyer’s potential transfer was for his sake, I could now see how much of it stemmed from my own angst. I want smooth sailing for Sawyer, because I long for it too. I want to be able to tell him he can rely on the powers and establishments of the world, because I would really like the comfort of that too. I want to tell him things won’t change and a good attitude in any given situation will yield a happy outcome, because I want to believe that too.
But I can’t tell him that. In fact, I have to warn him our sailboats will travel across stormy seas, the powers and establishments of the world will fail us over and over again, and things of this world will always change despite our best efforts.
Once I let go of all of these hopes and frantic prayers, I sat before the Lord with open hands and asked him to fill them with truth. He gave me his promises:
“The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged” (Deut. 31:8).
“I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness” (Jer. 31:3).
“He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Phil. 1:6).
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: the old has gone, the new is here!” (2 Cor. 5:17).
These are the promises that remain true through change, hardship, transition, and pain. These are the promises that remain true through contentment, triumph, joy, and healing. Thankfully, these are the promises I can tell my boy when change and the unknown loom before him again.
They didn’t end up transferring Sawyer to a different school, but he was moved to a brand new 1st grade class with a new teacher. Some of his friends were transferred into the class as well, but he doesn’t know most of his new classmates. So yesterday and today, I had to pry his sweet little arms from around my legs, look into his tear-streaked face and tell him what I know is true: “You are brave, and you are kind. You can choose to bless everyone in your class today. The Holy Spirit is with you every step and every breath you take today. God has a plan for you. I love you, and I WILL be here as soon as school is over.”
My speech didn’t stop the tears, but it got him through the door. All day I have prayed for peace and comfort for his spirit. I don’t know what kind of report I’ll get from him when I pick him up, but I trust that he spent the whole day cradled in the hands of our mighty God—the creator of space and time, the redeemer of all pain.