I’ve been exposed to ‘fear producing’ experiences many times over my 70+ years. As a graduate student many years ago, I learned about the ‘fight-flight’ mechanism all of us are born with. It was explained rather simply. If ancient mankind saw a ‘saber-toothed tiger’ coming closer and closer, in a nana-second of time, he had to decide whether to ‘stand and fight’ or ‘run like the Devil was after him’. We were created that way, our God knowing that we had to survive as His creation. There is another kind of fear that is not the ‘fight or flee’ type. It’s emotional fear. I never realized how powerful it is until I read Jim Fay & David Funks work, TEACHING WITH LOVE AND LOGIC. I never realized how powerful fear is, nor did I comprehend why the Angels of the Lord when the appeared/appear among us first utter to us, “Fear not!”. Our young people at Lydia Urban Academy in Rockford have tremendous fears of being a victim, being inadequate, being rejected, being controlled, and being bullied. Much of the stress they feel — indeed we all feel — is that ‘stress is change to which fear is added’. In a culture that places so much emphasis on appearance and winning, there is little room nor space left for those who just simply can’t nor do they need to ‘rise to the top’. I’m just scratching the surface of what was a three hour presentation I heard today, but I must say that upon hearing it, it put me in touch with my inner being answering very old questions that I had never been brave enough to ask.
How do my urban students cope with the fears they face? They act out in ways that protect that part of their being that cannot be reached without extraordinary measures. They are battle-scarred from many battles and wars they have witnessed. Unable to articulate exactly what bothers them, what frustrates them, how inadequate they feel, they often use the reverse behaviors of these traits to shield and protect the little love they know, the little acceptance they receive, the violence they know. This is their world that drives what they understand of ‘Logic’. What is foreign to them is unconditional love.
I don’t know that I could love these kids as much as I do were it not for the relationship I have with Jesus Christ. What do I mean by that? When I was in high school, I walked two miles to school. Yes, it was always snowing, yes it was always up-hill. I had no companions. As I waged the wars of adolescence, having no one to talk to, I prayed. I prayed about everything and anything. I prayed that I’d pass Geometry Class. I prayed that I could remember the Shakespeare passage I had to memorize for Ms. Rice. I prayed about my first loves. I asked Jesus more questions than I can count. Looking back on it now, my prayers always seemed to find an answer. I enjoyed the solitude. I learned that it was safer to pray with my eyes open. I enjoyed the time with Jesus. I began to understand something of unconditional love. It was years later that I could reflect back on relationships I had had. As I remembered those faces, I started to understand that although many of them never told me they loved me, they showed me they did in the kindnesses they shared, the lessons they taught, the demonstrations they provided. I learned about love because I was open to allowing Jesus to love me. I had ‘let Him in’ to my being when I was only seven.
I have not let go of the ‘love’ part of me. First, it’s not mine. It’s the Christ within me. Secondly I’ve found what a powerful resource love and prayer are with my kids. Last week one of my young men went ‘ballistic’ in class. It was an all out emotional catharsis. I tried every technique and measure of logical discourse I could. It didn’t work. So, sitting across the table from my student, with eyes wide open, hands folded, I silently prayed — and prayed — and prayed. Two minutes went by, five minutes went by. I stayed in conversation with Jesus. All I asked of Him was, “Lord love this young man, bring peace to this man’s wounded heart. His outbursts slowed, came to a walk, then to a crawl. He finally looked at me and said, “Okay, Doc, I’ll coma now”. (Street talk for ‘chill’, be still, be quiet). It was a brief moment in his life and mine. There will be more of these moments, many more at the Urban Outpost
Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where this is knowledge, it will pass away. For now we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love” I Cor. 13