Before They Are Gone

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Core scripture“I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them” (1 Timothy 2:1).

Message: Pulling the note from my teacher mailbox, I recognized the handwriting.  I had not seen it in years, but the memories came flooding back to me as I held it in my hands.  I smiled at a few misspellings—some things never change—but the note was straight from the heart.  One of my old students, a graduating senior of 2018, was inviting me to his AVID breakfast.  I remembered him well.  Positive.  Always smiling.  Handsome.  Athletic.  Full of mischievousness yet still likeable.  Artistic.  Smart.  That smile of his will live forever in my heart.

I had not sat down and talked with him more than a sentence or two since he left my classroom five years ago.  It made me wonder … what was he up to?  Where would the next step in life take him?  How had he changed since he left middle school?  I walked into the gymnasium to meet him and began checking out the row of tri-folds on the bleachers.  There he was!  Smiling back at me from the picture on the board.  I read his biography off to the side.  His plans.  His aspirations.  I beamed when I read he planned on going to school to become an art teacher.

It was at that moment that I turned around and saw him.  Five or six inches taller, gussied up in a bowtie, hair gelled to perfection.  Still handsome.  Still smiling.  Smiles never change, you know?  We embraced in an authentic “bro hug.”  Nothing mushy.  The clasping of hands.  Two pats on the back.  Done.  I could have talked to him for hours.  It got even better when his crush from my same 5th hour class glided over to say hi.  We reminisced about the good old days in my class when he and his best friend were trying to court her the way 7th grade boys did.

While enjoying a hearty breakfast buffet, the program started.  Each senior was asked to stand up, introduce themselves, and talk about who they had invited to the event.  I beamed with pride as he addressed the congregation with polished maturity.  Son of a gun … he was going somewhere!  Wherever God would lead him, that kid was bound for greatness.  As the rest of the seniors took their turns, stories flowed through the air like a soothing breeze.  Broken lives had been mended.  Hope filled their emptiness.  And they were being sent off to the next stage of life with the whole world ahead of them.

What words can describe these young men and ladies?  Excited.  Awestruck.  Anxious.  Overwhelmed.  Petrified.  Hopeful.  Maybe a combination of all.  Some of these seniors are moving on to college, and that is where the truth stings: seven out of ten Christians will walk away from their faith in college.  Too much temptation and peer pressure.  That is where we as teachers are called to do two powerful things that could make a difference in their lives.  One, we should pray for protection over them, and two, we should fill them with as much God-inspired wisdom as humanly possible the last few weeks of school.

We should not only pray for those seniors.  As the scripture above tells us, pray for all people.  Our own students are making transitions to the next level.  That is where prayers and wisdom take on different meanings for different kids.  While a grade school teacher might be praying for kids to not wear flip flops on rocky playgrounds, the middle school teacher will be praying for kids to stop playing Fortnite.  As for the wisdom part of it, don’t miss an opportunity to teach a life lesson of character.  A story can inspire.  Use them from your own life or the lives of others.  Make a difference these last few weeks.  Believe me, your students will thank you for it.

Challenge: Make it your goal to teach as many life lessons as possible over the last three weeks of school.  Fill your students with as much wisdom as possible!  Check out the “Character Lessons” link at the top of my blog for fantastic ideas.

Video application: This Christian college student gives such valuable advice to our youth.  Feel free to use this to share to fellow believers who are middle school to high school age.  I am going to post it for my FCA students to view online.

Journal/Accountability: Write or talk with a trusted Christian friend about the most valuable advice you could leave your students before they depart for the summer.

Quote: “What lies behind us, and what lies before us are small matters compared to what lies within us.” (Ralph Waldo Emerson)

Other scripture for graduates: “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice” (Proverbs 12:15).

“For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11).

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6).

Prayer: Lord, protect our students as they move on to the next stage of life.  Fill me with wisdom to pour into them before they are gone.  Amen.

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