I play a game with my kids. When they are pouting or withdrawing from me or disappointed with me or think I’m disappointed with them, I hold up my thumb and index finger and say, “Do I love you this much?”
They know the answer by now, but the first time, they looked at me, a little confused. I smiled and shook my head. Then I held my hands about six inches apart. “This much?” They had started to catch on, so they shook their heads that time, still a little uncertain. I proceeded through a few iterations until I got to the arms spread wide with my hands extended and the proclamation, “I love you THIS much!” They erupted in giggles and happily received my hug.
I wrote last fall about moving our family from New Jersey to Connecticut (see We’re Moving, or the Providence of God). My fears about the move centered around Penny, and particularly around school. Our school situation in New Jersey seemed ideal for her–she was in an integrated classroom setting, with two teachers and an aide that served all the kids in the class. It was a great fit. They had enough support to handle her disruptive behaviors, and yet she was able to remain in the mix of typical kids and other kids with disabilities. By the end of the year (see Penny Finishes Kindergarten), she had made friends and she had learned to read. She was ready for first grade. So back in the fall, any thought of moving her made me worry. A lot.
I prayed about it. A lot. And I received two clear messages from God in response. The first came in the midst of a sermon. It was a thought that just popped into my head, but I knew it came from the Spirit: “Even if you make the wrong decision, I will still take care of Penny.” The second came from a hymn that we sang twice that day (kind of like in the Bible when writers repeat words–God isn’t just holy but holy holy holy–for emphasis), Be Still My Soul: “Thy God will undertake to guide thy future as he has thy past.”
I didn’t receive a specific promise about Penny’s school. But I was asked to trust God as we stepped forward. And so Peter took the job, and we were moving. I still worried about Penny’s school situation.
Yesterday I met with Penny’s new teacher and principal and the special education teacher and special education coordinator for our new school district. We are moving to a small town, so there is only one first grade classroom. They don’t have any self-contained classes, so she will be integrated by necessity. But they decided to try something new this year. Instead of having a special ed teacher visit the classroom at various points throughout the day, they decided to have the special ed teacher co-teach the class. And they decided to provide an aide for the entire class all day as well. In other words, Penny will be moving into exactly the same situation she was in last year–two teachers, one with specific training in special education, and an aide. She will join three other children with special needs and 19 typically developing kids.
I walked away from the meeting and Psalm 8 came to mind:
When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?
(I used the male language in this quotation intentionally because it keeps it personal, by the way.)
Or, put another way, I walked away feeling as if God had asked me, back in the fall, “Do I love you this much?” Index finger and thumb, and I had nodded, tentatively. Maybe it will all work out. And then, this spring, when I found out about Penny’s New Jersey placement, “Do I love you this much?” Hands extended a foot or so. And I whispered yes. And then yesterday, God’s arms spread wide, and I got tears in my eyes to receive the embrace.