My daughter began school this year. It was the moment I had been dreading from the time she took her first steps and said her first words. I often thought about her carrying her backpack, only her little legs and feet sticking out as the size of it swallowed up most of her tiny 5-year-old body. It seemed so far away when she was one year old, but the thought made a pit in my stomach. As the years went by and she grew, so did the pit. She was my buddy, my little right-hand-man who went everywhere with me. To her brothers, she was the initiator of games, the solver of problems, and the comic relief when it was necessary. How on earth would we survive without her?
I began 2011 with plans to homeschool. I was ready, the room was ready, and the curriculum was ready. However, about two months before it was time for school to begin, God placed it on my heart and on my husband’s…sister needed to go to school. She had needs that I was not in the position to meet and for a variety of reasons, I was going to have to let her go.
So, I began preparing myself for what was to come. I spent everyday with her; soaking her in and enjoying the days I would still have her all to myself. We played as a family, we took trips together, and we bonded over swimming and reading and riding bicycles. After much deliberation we decided to send her to a tiny little Christian school in our area. Although it helped to know the school and some of the people there, I continued to feel the dread of that first day.
The first day of Kindergarten was a beautiful summer day. Sister could not stand the wait…she was so excited to begin her life as a big girl. She couldn’t wait to meet new friends, eat lunch in a lunchroom, and sit at a desk. She was completely oblivious to the turmoil inside her mother. I dutifully pasted a smile on my face, my voice staying at least two octaves too high for most of the morning as I faked excitement for the sake of my daughter. I drove her to school, walked her into her class, hovered for a few moments and walked back to my car. Then, I completely fell apart. I cried for so many reasons. I cried for the loss of time I would be able to spend with her from then on, I cried for the loss of the season of life I was leaving behind, I cried because I knew how much I would miss her, and I cried because of my own long list of personal issues relating to abandonment and what-not. It’s amazing how our children force us to deal with our own issues… but that is a story for another day.
I can honestly say that was a day that will remain in my memory for the rest of my life…I can also honestly say it was the best decision God, my husband and I could have made. Sister is thriving at her school. She is happy and is excited on Sunday to begin the next school week. Confirmation and comfort come from different places by different sources all the time. I know God is in this with us, as sister belongs so much more to him than she does to us. He is truly in every decision and detail of her life.
These past few days have brought these memories flooding back as I see and hear stories of the families in Newton, Connecticut. As I say good-bye to sister each morning before school, there is an added ache. I imagine what each of the 20 moms and dads did or said the morning they dropped off their little kindergartener on that awful and tragic day. I am sure to tell sister how much I love her and how special she is…then I think to myself, I can’t forget this. I can’t, in the inevitable return to "regular" life as the memory of these events become dim, forget to tell her how special she is, how precious she is to our family and to God, and how much I love her.
I don’t always know how to provide comfort in situations like these. I grasp for meaning or understanding, but the truth is I will never understand how anyone can justify choosing children as victims. They are so precious and have so much ahead of them. I do know that as the hands and feet of Jesus and the representatives of Him here on earth, it is imperative that we are there for others when such comfort is needed. We must listen to, cry with, hold, and meet the needs of those who are suffering around us. And God knows exactly what we need, He knows we can’t make it through life’s difficulties, or comfort others in times of suffering without Him.
2 Corinthians 1:3 says “Praise be to God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.” In this verse, the Greek word for comfort in the phrase “God of all comfort” is Parakleseos, which is a noun. It is a person, place or thing that dispels grief by the impartation of strength. The noun indicates that God IS comfort… comfort IS God. He is the one who imparts strength to dispel grief. His comfort is abundant and, it is offered in proportion to the need. The greater the suffering, the greater the amount of mercy, compassion and comfort God provides (2 Corinthians 1:4). We are the messengers of comfort to those who are suffering because we know who God is and have received His comfort in our own times of despair.
I can’t imagine the pain the parents of those precious children are experiencing, nor do I presume to remotely know how to help them appease that level of pain. But I do know that we are all suffering in this world; some suffer more intensely than others, but we all have or will experience suffering in this life. I know this because Jesus tells us to expect it. “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) The only words I have to offer are these: God is merciful and the source of our strength, Jesus has overcome this world and given us full access to the mercy of God in his abundant love for us, and we are in this together. We will fight together, encourage each other, weep together, and hang on with one another until Christ returns, because God has equipped us and called us to this as His family. Praise God for the body of Christ!
I don’t think I will ever be ok with sending my children away for eight hours a day, everyday. But I remember that God is my comfort, Jesus is my protector and my heavenly father loves my children more than I could ever love them. I will continue to pray for the safety of all of our children and that those who have lost children of their own will be given the peace and comfort that can only come from our Heavenly Father. “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:7) Reach out to your suffering brothers and sisters in Christ, whatever the circumstances…let’s get through this life together.