The Joyful Journey Day Camp started this week, which keeps us all on our feet working with 30+ kids from 8-4 every weekday for four weeks. It is one of the most exhausting and rewarding things I have ever been a part of! God always seems to reveal something about His character through working with children. This week I learned so much through a little girl I will call Abby. She and I spent a total of over an hour in time-out over the course of just two days. After the second day in time-out, we had a talk about how neither of us wanted her to be back there tomorrow. When she came the next day, she immediately started causing trouble with other kids and disobeying her counselors. I took her aside, and looked into her angry, beautiful brown eyes and told her that I loved her and wanted her to have fun today with all her friends. I told her that everyone here wanted her to stay at the camp and stay away from time-out.
I spent everyday holding my breath, praying for Abby, poised to intervene in situations to catch problems before they started, just so she could get through the day without being sent to time-out. I stayed with her for most of her classes, willing her to get along with other children, to be kind, to understand and see the rewards of obeying the counselors. I didn’t want her to lose privileges. I wanted her to eat snacks, play outside, and go on field trips. There was absolutely no part of me that wanted to take those things away from her.
But I knew I would do it if I had to, because I loved her and I wanted her to see that the things she did were hurting her and people around her. I wanted her to understand that she can be kind; she can be good. It was heartbreaking whenever Abby chose to disobey and revert back to what I thought she had moved past. She would be kind to another kid, share her lunch or crayons, and then turn around and adamantly defy a counselor. It was so tiring and saddening when she would make a good choice, taking a step forward, and then turn around and take three steps back.
Throughout the week, I began to realize the parallel of this situation with my relationship with God. Doesn’t God do all of this with me everyday as my Father? He is always for me, wanting me to do what is good and kind. His heart breaks and He mourns when I constantly choose that thing that He has already freed me from. That thing we both thought I had moved past and didn’t struggle with anymore. He is with me constantly; always ready to be there to help me choose Him in every situation. He does not want me to go through painful things, but He knows that sometimes I have to in order to know Him more and be more like Him.
I have just barely started to invest a portion of my love and energy into Abby. God has been investing all his love and energy into me since the beginning of the world. And he will never get weary of doing that. As I try to exercise all the patience and compassion I possess for the people around me, I need to remember that God has always and will always extend grace, love and endless patience to me.