But then, he appears. Eyes welling with tears, he stumbles down the stairs and throws himself into a bear hug, burying his face in my jacket. Alarmed, I guide his eyes up to mine and give him a questioning look. "She said our house looks stupid, Mom. She thinks we're funny and she made fun of Jesus."
We walk home - the three of us together and one furry ally in tow. I can't bring myself to respond just yet so I silently hold his hand. The situation was pricking a vulnerable place in me, a reminder of the struggle that I'd had in the school decision-making process. Public or private? Homeschool? Montessori? As if it were yesterday, I'm standing back in the kindergarten classroom the night of my now seven-year-old's open house.
I'd shared a little bit about our journey and hesitation with his new teacher. "I understand, but he'll learn to own his faith here," she replies, convinced. "As you teach and guide him in real life situations, he'll become stronger in whatever religious beliefs your family wants to uphold. These kids need to be tested and counseled along the way, so that they have a deep understanding of what believing means. He'll be able to defend it that way."
Back then, I was uncertain, but her words echo true as we climb the hill to our yard. By this time, my sons are discussing the situation together. I overhear the youngest agreeing that this girl is quite the "meanie head", and at that point, I intervene.
"Guys, the things *Ava said have everything to do with her family and her life. Our family knows how important Christmas is to us. Do you think one little girl should steal our fun? This is our favorite time of year, but not everybody feels that way. Can you think of a reason why she might have said those things?"
The eldest ponders as if I've asked him to solve a math equation. "Well, maybe she's sad or mad about something...maybe her family doesn't like Christmas? But I think if she really knew who Jesus is, she'd never, never say those things. I wish she could just be happy 'cause I just love Him."
I feel like I'm being let in on the secret a little late, and my own tears begin to blur my vision. I'd assumed that my little guy was concerned about being made fun of. I'd jumped to the conclusion that he felt silly or attacked, called out in front of the bus crowd. I stood there fearing that my parenting had subjected him to others' mocking. That I hadn't prepared him...
I was wrong. Just beginning to understand his need to defend "his Jesus," I could relate. To him, Jesus is loving and safe. A place to take bad feelings and scary dreams and drop them off. His protection. Who wouldn't want somebody like that in their corner?
That evening, as we wrap up bedtime stories and prepare to pray, he reminds me to cover *Ava. "I think you better do it, baby. You know her much more than I do and God probably needs to hear it from you first." He agrees.
As my seven-year-old asks for peace in this young girl's life...as he asks God to make her heart happier and to help her to be nice to everybody, my heart explodes and I know that my fears are unfounded. God is faithful to those who love Him, who are called according to His purpose.
What about you? Have you and your family ever had to stand up to a bully-situation?
Happy, Courageous Advent,