Once in a while a teacher will have a connection with a student that touches her soul. The connection lasts a lifetime. I have had a few of those in my teaching career. I remember a student, named Max.. She was a middle child. She wanted too much to be like her brother. He was a good student and rarely had to study. She was a good student . . . but had to work at it. She also liked to get things done. Her mother called her determined. She did things even if she got in trouble. She was hardly ever still.
When Max hadn’t learned to ride a bike at 10, she was determined to learn how. Nothing would stop her. A farm hand offered to help her. When he took a break now and then, he would bring the bike to her in the yard and help her ride around the drive. But he did more than that . . . he touched her where he shouldn’t. He threatened her. He assured her that no one would believe her. He touched her very heart and soul. He was an evil ruler over her for the months that he was with the family.
Max was determined to survive . . . she filed this experience in the filing cabinet of her brain. It was not going to come back out for a long time. Life went on, but she was quieter, read more, and stayed to herself when possible. Her friends at school had no idea, no one did. She was angry at times. She slammed her dad’s desk drawer shut one time when he left. The front broke off. She did feel badly about it and had it glued together before he got back home.
When she was twelve, her elementary friends wrote her a note and said that they didn’t want to be seen with her . . . she was too studious. They wanted to flirt with boys at lunch, and she was holding them back. The note said that Max was not to talk to them or sit with them at lunch. She was crushed beyond words. She hid in the bathroom at lunch for weeks. . . . She learned to cry without sobbing and to put her legs up against the stall door. No one coming in the bathroom could see or hear her.
Now by many standards this was not enough to take a life. But by twelve year old standards, it was more than enough. She wasn’t as good as the older brother. She wasn’t as sweet as the younger sister. She believed everything the farm hand had said –no one loved her– she was nothing. Her “friends” reaffirmed that. No one would miss her when she was gone. She was convinced of that. She tried to figure a way to do the job.
When hanging seemed the only plan, she went through the steps. But there was a slight problem/miracle. When the air was leaving her body, a voice came to Max and said, “Don’t let anyone make you feel this sad again. I love you! I will always love you. I will never leave you nor forsake you.” With that, Max fell . . . the belt loosened from her neck and she gasped for air. Max’s life changed forever. God’s love and her determination would get her through any crisis that she would meet along life’s road. Her neck was burned, but she covered it up with turtle neck sweaters. Her mother noticed a red spot and asked her about it. She looked at it, but Max was quick enough to tell her that she had gone to sleep with the hair dryer on. The hose had burned her neck. It was believable.
She went to school and ate lunch by herself until she made a new friend. They became very good friends. The other “friends” started talking to her and as years went by . . . they never knew that they had hurt her so much. She kept that in the filing cabinet of her brain.
Do we take enough time with our children and young people to listen to their trials and troubles? Do we write it off as childish dribble because they don’t know what real hardship is? Max learned so much from this experience. At twelve years old she had experienced a life/death trauma, was touched by the hand of God, and never had to worry about peer pressure again. God’s love and mercy continues to be a miracle.
Max never spoke of this incident. A few days after this miracle, she was sitting alone in the living room. No lights were on, except the lights from the Christmas tree. It was breathtaking! Her soul was shining, her heart was beating, and her spirit was glowing. To this day, in Max’s eyes, Christmas trees are a sign of the glory of God and His power.
I heard from her many years later when her knight in shining armor appeared and swept her off her feet. They became engaged. She knew she would have to tell him about the suicide attempt. She was ashamed that she had ever become that desperate. She cried when she told him. He put his loving arms around her and told her not to worry. He loved her . . . he would always love her! He would always be with her to comfort her, to take away her sorrows, to keep her safe. He called her his little girl. He promised to love her forever. The filing cabinet drawer closed once again.
Max and her husband were very happy and soon had two little precious girls to complete their family. They had a wonderful life of love and happiness. Like all lives there were good times and bad times. Max’s husband had battled cancer when the girls were four and seven, but they fought the battle and won. They all endured the chemotherapy, the radiation, and the struggles in one way or another. Max’s determination managed to keep things going along as normal as possible.
Time marched on. When the older girl was in middle school and struggling with peer problems, she came home one day and said, “No one would even miss me if I wasn’t here.” The filing drawer opened once again, and Max shared her miracle story with her girls. She hoped this would help her daughters to see what is most important in life. Some friends are not true friends. But God is always our friend forever. The drawer opens every once in a while when Max wonders what God saw in her or why he saved her life. Only God knows that. His love and mercy abounds forever.
Max taught me a lot. I hope that you have learned life’s lessons too. Love is powerful. Enjoy your family every day of your life. Avoid those that are negative and bring you down. God’s mercy and love for you are stronger than any peer pressure could be. Listen to our young people. Let them know they matter. They are worthy human beings. Fight the battles of life with dignity and determination.