“Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.” ~ John 14:27
I remember this Scripture in the form of a song from my childhood, “I have the peace that passes understanding down in my heart … WHERE? DOWN IN MY HEART! WHERE? Down in my heart to stay…”
But where was the peace? While childhood flannel board Jesus was supposed to be a figure of peace, the adults teaching me about him at Summer Bible School weren’t always so peaceful. EVERYBODY ONLY GETS 2 COOKIES! AND ONE CUP OF KOOL-AID! SIT DOWN ON THE BUS AND FACE FORWARD! SING IT AGAIN!
Maybe they were just frustrated with our pre-pubescent antics. We thought we had it oh-so-bad.
I understand it better now, having not only raised my own teenager-now-adult, but now seeing 130 8th graders on a daily basis. They need this peace that surpasses all understanding. Jesus was right. The world doesn’t offer it. These kids live in constant surface fear of school shootings, as we quarterly rehearse what to do should the unthinkable event ever occur. They’ve only ever known a nation at “war.” They observe the fiery discussions about whether or not already-addled and stressed out teachers should be allowed to carry a firearm. They can view every sexual act known to man with their little pocket computers. Violence, bullying, and shame follow them, as social media potentially records and broadcasts their every movement and mood. It’s no wonder they have difficulty focusing and learning how to factor polynomials.
My frustrations in childhood were nothing compared to what my students are going through.
Do they find peace in their churches? I don’t know. Some of them are being condemned and made to feel less than human because the person they love is the same sex. Others may just be confused and a little hurting, but the church has them feeling like a terrible sinner.
Laws are being passed that don’t protect these young women if they get raped, but rather punish them if they seek an abortion. They probably won’t find peace if they speak out, since a majority of convicted rapists and molesters don’t do any time. And if their rapists are their family member or a trusted religious leader? Unlikely it will ever be reported. Is there peace there?
Can my students find peace when they leave the school and head home? If they’re black or brown and walking to the corner store for an ice cream or a soda? Maybe not. They’re more likely to have guns drawn on them for their saggy pants and the color of their skin, than for anything they’ve actually done.
Will they be able to graduate high school? Find a job? Support a family? Am I supposed to be able to find peace when I think about them at night? Worrying about the ones always telling me they’re hungry? Or falling asleep most every class because they are simply tired from having to care for brothers and sisters while their mom works a second job.
Jesus, I’m trying. Trying to show them what little peace I can offer. But they need more. Show ‘em. Please. They need your peace.
John Robinson is a middle school math teacher in Sanford, Florida. He loves getting tattoos, listening to metal, and is constantly bragging about Florida winters.
Image courtesy of Pixabay.