This week I lost track of the hot air blowing around the Capitol and the wintery winds blowing across the nation. Headlines from home whipped me back to another life in which I taught fifth grade. During those six years, I shepherded 153 ten-year-olds through what I considered the peak of childhood: they were old enough to get in and out of their winter wear without help, but young enough to still think that being “teacher’s assistant” was cool. Some of my little sheep scampered around my legs and nudged at my hands, while others romped a short distance away. Still others required regular use of my “hook and crook” for a garden variety of small offenses.

Even though I shared but a short season of their lives, I had big dreams for them. They were young and their futures were open roads, blank slates, theirs for the taking. I still have big dreams for them. At thirty-ish, they are still young and their futures are still open roads.

At least, most of them. Over the years I have learned of students who charted dangerous courses – routes I silently and sadly expected. They were already at risk when they were ten. But the student who made news this week wasn’t one of those “at risk” ten-year-olds. He came from the finest of families, and he flourished in fifth grade. I loved him. At the end of the year, his sweet parents thanked me and said if they had a dozen more kids, they’d request me as teacher for all of them. And I’d have been privileged to serve that family for as long as they sent me children.

I can’t begin to understand how my student grew into the man behind the horrific headlines. I am brokenhearted over the devastation he has confessed to causing. He brutally robbed a much-loved person of her “open road,” and he certainly closed off his own. He shattered every big dream that anyone has ever had for him.

My grief is small, so very small, compared to so many others in this December that can’t end soon enough. In this year’s Advent season, the season of anticipating God’s breaking into the darkness of the world, the darkness seemed especially dark. I am so glad that Immanuel has “already” come. But while we live in these still-dark days of “not yet,” I do wish His light would shine a bit brighter. I long for the day when He will break into this dark place again to right all the wrongs and dry all the tears. Lord Jesus, come quickly.

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