My path crossed Amanda’s* when she was a student in my second grade Sunday School in Connecticut. A problem child from day one, Amanda was disagreeable to the other children and disrespectful to me. Each Sunday I hoped she wouldn’t arrive and each week I would bristle with anxiety when she appeared in the doorway.
Sunday mornings found me praying that God would help me hold my tongue and increase my patience 100-fold. Week after week was a struggle; she remained obstinate and each class left me weary with frustration. For the final class before summer break, the church took the entire school on a field trip to the US Military Academy at West Point, NY.
Preparing that morning and knowing it was going to be a long day in the company of the children, I prayed for our safety and protection throughout the trip and spent some additional time in special prayer regarding my “tough case.” I’d already given up asking God for insight into her issues and just prayed that He would continue to grant me tolerance and patience enough to be loving and gentle with her this one last time.
Arriving at West Point, we got off the buses and I observed that Amanda was more withdrawn than usual. Selfishly wondering if God was answering my prayers, I made sure she wasn’t ill and even though she assured me with a halfhearted smile that she was fine, she didn’t seem to enjoy herself and kept close to the teaching staff most of the day.
Near the end of our trip, while walking through the cool silence of Cadet Chapel, I felt a little hand slide in to mine. I looked down and was astonished to see Amanda looking up at me. She whispered, “I love you, Miss Clarke.”
I squeezed her hand and gasped, biting back the tears as this pure act of affection was displayed. I continued to hold her hand until we spread blankets for our picnic lunches. It was then that Amanda told me that this was her last Sunday at church and that her family, who moved around a lot, would be moving again very soon.
Suddenly, I was ashamed at myself. That morning I’d been delighted that this was the last Sunday I would have to be around her as she’d graduate to the next level and wouldn’t be my “problem” next year. Now, knowing some of what she was dealing with, I wanted a Do-Over! I wanted a chance to tackle this situation from the perspective I should have in the beginning: a person with a soft heart and gentle spirit.
How could I have ever have thought that this young child was anything but the most precious gift from God? How hard was my heart to not see the lost little girl before me, just looking for a friend, someone to be patient, someone to listen? That night I begged for the Lord’s forgiveness. He taught me a powerful lesson that year.
“Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.”
– Colossians 3:13-15 (NIV)
“Let me emulate You, Jesus, and greet all who come into my life with a soft heart and open, warm spirit. Even the toughest walls will be brought down with love, peace, and kindness and sometimes we only have one chance to show someone Your heart….”
A Life Sanctified
* Amanda is not her real name.