By Michelle S. Lazurek
I walked onto the red-stained deck of my workplace to be greeted by the laughter of thirty energetic kindergarteners. I punched in at the time clock for another ordinary day of work and entered the adjacent playground, where I immediately locked eyes with one of our problem kids.
I realized this was going to be no ordinary day.
When I disciplined him a second time for throwing wood chips at his friends, he screamed, “Shut Up! I don’t care,” and scurried to the corner of the slide. He huddled in the corner and glared at me with a cold, icy stare.
I leaned over and met his stare. I firmly stated, “I don’t want you to say ‘shut up’ to me anymore.” Before I could say another word, he hurled a handful of wood chips at my face, one of which almost landed in my eye.
I’d seen this episode played out a million times. Same story. Same ending. Until today.
In that moment, I could either allow this behavior to continue and endanger the welfare of myself, the rest of the staff, and thirty more innocent little bystanders or I could change it.
I decided to change it.
He crossed his arms in front of him, and I firmly and quickly escorted him to the edge of the fence. He kicked me, screamed, “You freak!” and tried to break free. With mud-caked pants and bruised legs, I continued holding onto him in a firm yet loving embrace.
I looked at him, and I immediately realized the reason for my physical restraint. Looking past his tear-filled eyes and deep into his soul, I recognized the fear, baggage and self-rejection that accompanies family instability.
I saw a frightened little boy, grasping for whatever attention he could muster out of anyone who would take a moment to care. Most importantly, I looked beyond him and into an all too familiar face: mine.
In that moment, my heart melted. Seeing him through the eyes of Christ, I saw him transform from a daily nuisance to God’s son, yearning for someone to love him. He interpreted my anger as another invitation for someone to reject him. He didn’t understand that I disciplined him out of love, not out of punishment.
I couldn’t let him go, because I might be the only Jesus this child ever saw.
I patiently waited as he slowly regained his composure. After he calmed down, I let him go. I had done all I could do for him in that moment. I loosened my arms and released him into the heavenly Father’s care, so He could scoop him up into His loving embrace.
This situation mimics my relationship with Christ. When I am in sin, I struggle and try to break free from God’s convicting grip on my heart. In His loving grace and mercy, He never loosens His grip. “Endure hardship as discipline. God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline) then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have trained by it” (Heb. 12:7-12, NIV).
Growing up in a strict home, I equated discipline with punishment. When my parents disciplined me, I only saw the anger and wrath that came with disapproval. When I became a Christian, I understood that God disciplines me out of His love, not in place of it. In the face of my sin, I wriggle and squirm, hoping for an opportunity to run away and hide from my shameful behavior. God keeps His firm grip on me to protect me from the harm that comes from a broken relationship with Him.
As Christians, we have the daily opportunity to love the world with correction laced with grace, instead of harsh chastisement. I chose to demonstrate grace in the midst of correction so that this child may one day accept the loving embrace that God extended to both him and me.
On that extraordinary day, God taught me an unexpected lesson about love, discipline and the unending, unflinching grace of Jesus.
All because I just couldn’t let him go.
Photo Courtesy of Alycia W. Morales
Michelle S. Lazurek has been a pastor’s wife for over twelve years. Whether it is through writing counseling material, organizing ladies retreats or mentoring women in her church, Michelle considers each day an opportunity to find her place in God’s story. In 2007, Michelle and her husband Joe planted Praxis Church. Michelle holds a Master’s degree in Counseling and Human Relations from Liberty University. She has two beautiful children, Caleb and Leah. Michelle provides tips for busy writers on her blog The Writers’ Tapestry: Where Writing and Life Intertwine .
Michelle’s book Becoming the Disciple Whom Jesus Loved: Discover Your Character In God’s Love Story (Winepress Publishing, October, 2011) invites readers to engage with the story God is writing for their lives and discover their role as a character in that story. The book also asks the reader “What’s Your Story?” and provides thought provoking questions at the end of each chapter to allow readers to interact with the material. The book is available on her website www.michellelazurek.com, Amazon and Barnes and Noble. You can follow her on Facebook or Twitter: @mslazurek.