I live, eat, and play with my students Every. Single. Day.
I love my students so deeply. But wanting the best for them causes problems, and I'll give you an example.
I first met Nohelia in 2012, during my first trip to the Good Shepherd Children's Home.
I did nothing to reach out to her, but she clung to me without relent – literally clung to me. If I had a free hand, she held it. She used to wrap both of her arms around my waist and not let go. But I grew to love Nohelia.
|Exhibit A: My second trip in 2012 -- I had to pull her arms off of me so I could walk.|
|A few weeks ago after church.|
Fast-forward three years.
I am now living at the Good Shepherd Children's Home, just a few minutes' walk from Nohelia's house. I have invested a lot of time into Nohelia's life, and our relationship has grown so much.
She normally walks me to my classroom everyday, hugs me the moment she sees me, and stays at my hip.
Her bible teacher told me that when he asked the class to write down their favorite thing to do, Nohelia wrote, “Play with Bailey."
One of her roommates told me, “You know, Bailey, to me you are Nohelia's mom.” I told her that “sister” is a little more accurate and appropriate. A few days later, Nohelia came up to me with “Nohelia Wenger” written on her forearm in permanent marker. This girl had literally branded herself with my name.
Why? Because she loves me and considers me to be a part of her family – or rather, considers herself to be a part of my family.
This is where things get tricky.
I am no longer just the “sister” who comes over to play. Now I am Nohelia's teacher, and I have to be fair in how I treat her as my student.
In the classroom, my love for her and my desire to make her happy doesn't matter. I have to give her objective grades, and the law of my job requires that I treat her the same as my other students. There are rules that she must follow in my classroom. And if she doesn't follow them, she has to deal with the consequences.
The problem is that Nohelia hates English class! She doesn't participate. She doesn't speak. She refuses to put forth an effort to do what she is supposed to do in class. And I finally had to lay my foot down.
On Monday, I gave Nohelia a bad report (this is the discipline report in our school for bad behavior), and she got mad. It is Saturday, and she still hasn't spoken to me.
Nohelia doesn't understand that my disciplining her does nothing to change my love for her. In fact, it is out of my love for her that I discipline her.
I want to see her thrive and succeed and be happy, but I have to be just. If I gave her good grades for sitting idly in class with a bad attitude and little participation, I would be a lousy teacher. And she would never learn to be a good student.
As a teacher, I have to discipline her when she does wrong – those are the rules, and they are in place to protect her and grow her into a well-rounded young lady.
But it sucks.
Because now the girl I love – my student, my friend, my “little sister” – won't speak to me.
She runs away from me; She refuses to listen to me; She won't even look at me. And it hurts my heart.
As I walked back from lunch on Thursday – trying not to cry – I was reminded that this is how God feels about us when we choose to run from him.
This is what happens when Love and Law collide.
How often do I find God's law unfair, unnecessary, and optional? How often do I put on a stubborn face and a stinky attitude, because I don't feel like being the person he wants me to be?
But the truth is that God wants the best for us. And he knows what the best way is – His way.
But instead of understanding that and following him, we run.
We don't look at God, we don't listen to his nudges on our heart. We refuse to pay any attention to his calling out to us.
And it hurts God. Because he loves us so much.
With Nohelia, I can feel just a taste of how God loves me. Love is a powerful feeling, but along with love comes a desire for the best. I want the best for Nohelia. So I will try to guide her in doing right.
But oh, how I will mourn this stage of her straying.