Fell Off the Wagon

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I fell off the wagon today. I worked for nine hours at school. It’s Sunday. Yes, work is often my drug of choice. Some numb with food. Some with drugs, or media. I numb with work. As a teacher, it’s easy to do. I didn’t want to come home. It’s too quiet here. I can see the boys’ shoes lined up underneath the sideboard near the front door. Even though they are naughty for leaving them there, I smile. They must have unloaded those when I wasn’t looking and replaced that space in their suitcases with Nerf guns or remote control cars. Taking the shoes into the tiny bedroom that used to be my office, I line them up against the closet door. I’ve barely been in here since they left. The room is a disaster. And it smells like teenage boys. But, that’s not what keeps me away. What keeps me away is the raw emotion I experience when I think of the two boys who shared this space for two months. What keeps me away is the longing to come in here and say, “Goodnight,” when I know their bunks are empty. What keeps me away is the ache I experience when I sit here trying to imagine what they are doing tonight. It helped to just be in a sterile space today: organizing and arranging and sorting and grading and planning. It helped to be away from home where the bananas are turning brown before my very eyes. This would never happen if the boys were still here. Away from home where I know I need to wash their sheets and clean their room. But if I wash everything I might forget the scent of their space in our home. If I clean and tidy every evidence of them away, will they disappear from my memory, too? Our Father knows each little one by heart. He knows our scent, our secrets, and the very number of hairs on our heads. He says He knew our names before we were born (Jeremiah 1:5). He knows our pasts and our futures. He knows the plans He has for us (Jeremiah 29:11). He knows these kiddos, too. The ones we long to hold in our arms again. When we connect with Him, we connect with them. My summer boys are gone. The one who paused the movie we were watching to inform us there is “war in Ukraine.” Using Google translate I ask if he could hear the gunfire from his school, to which he replied, “Yes.” After ten weeks of unending energy, eating, motion, noise and chaos – silence. Can I now practice what I preach, Lord? Do I have the faith to trust You with them? Ten weeks ago, they were strangers. To each other. To us. None of us knew what to expect. Are they to become one more casualty in a pointless war? Another kid on the streets when an unfair system ages you out? I cannot bear to think of it. You are not just some random orphaned boys. Your spirits are kind. Your minds are bright. Your prayers are heard. Your hearts are loved. Your home is here. Trusting His plans for our newly empty nest.

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