Friday, October 1, 2010

Prayer - Helplessness

I have already written a little bit of this story here, but am writing it again to share with the women at Bible study. Since my blog is an exercise in writing, I am using it to mesh out what to share. Here is the story again, but this time with how prayer worked in the story.

Last year, Middle Man struggled in kindergarten. I am not sure he knew he struggled but I did. I sat by myself in the fall conference with his teacher and found out that he was being disruptive. Sadness set in. I got the phone calls from the teacher telling me what Middle Man had done this time. Frustration began. I read the emails between myself, his teacher, the counselor and the principal all trying to figure out how to help Middle Man fit in and follow directions. Despair entered my heart.

I felt crushed. I know what an amazing kid Middle Man is. I also know that he doesn't always fit into the box. He is quirky. He needs a special teacher and a special classroom environment to thrive. He survived kindergarten and was happy for most of the year, even when the adults were not. But I don't want school to be merely a matter of getting through the next grade. This is a bright kid who loves to learn. He loves going to school. I want him to thrive in school. I want him to be able to use all his gifts and talents. I want him in a place that meets him where he is and then helps him grow to the next level. Last year was about surviving. I tried everything I knew. I had meetings. I made reward charts. I problem solved. And then I came to the place where I realized I could not problem solve this one. I could not make it all better. I was helpless. Worse, I was helpless to make it better for my child.

Paul E. Miller in "A Praying Life" writes about how we need to learn to be helpless in order to pray. I loved this quote,
"If we think we can do life on our own, we will not take prayer seriously. Our failure to pray will always feel like something else - a lack of discipline or too many obligations. But when something is really important to us we make room for it. Prayer is simply not important to many Christians because Jesus is already an add-on."

At that moment of complete despair, of total helplessness, the only thing I could do was pray. I got to the place where I could not make my child better. I could not change him. I could only pray for him. So I started praying. I reminded God what was written in Philippians 1:6 "...being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." I know God made Middle Man the person he is with a purpose and that He needed to carry it to completion. I asked for God to transform Middle Man. Funny enough the next day, Middle Man started calling himself Transform, after a Pokemon character. There was a good Transform who sometimes lived with us, and a naughty one that we had to ask leave our house a few times. For the most part I had given up on the year, but when troubles arose, I would pray. It was all I could think to do.

This summer I started praying for Middle Man's class and teacher. I really want Middle Man to have a strong, positive first grade year. It has been a rocky few years of school and I don't want him to lose his love of school. I prayed for his teacher especially, that he would be placed with a great teacher who would help him thrive. I really wanted him to have Hockey Boy's teacher from last year. She is amazing. Runs a really structured class with lots of positive praise which Middle Man eats up. So I was praying Middle Man would get her class.

A week before class lists were posted we found out that Hockey Boy's teacher was moving to 2nd grade. Funny enough I was not worried about Hockey Boy's class placement at all. I rarely worry about him in school because he is such a good student and almost always follows directions - at school. I was sad for Middle Man who really wanted Hockey Boy's teacher. I began to worry about it all again. I had been praying and was confident, I thought, that God would take care of my boys. But when I heard that the "plan" I had in mind wasn't going to happen, I worried.

I had not turned my problem over to God. Not fully. In reality what I had done was turn my solution over to God. I had figured out the solution to my problem and had then prayed with the intention that I wanted God to make my solution happen. But that is not what we are told to do in Philippians 4:6-7. "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."

It is when we are helpless that we turn to God. It was when I was without a solution but full of anxiety that I cast my cares on Him. Once I heard my solution was not going to happen for Middle Man, I started praying about my problem. I was worried about Middle Man having a good teacher and a good class. I was worried about numbers and class mates. I was worried he would be forced to conform and lose himself in the process. I was worried he would lose his love of learning. So I prayed for God to work. I prayed for God to solve my problem His way.

It turns out He already had. The class lists for this year were pretty much set at the end of the last school year. We just didn't know it. So did the prayers matter? I think they did. Praying allowed me to align my will to God's will. It reminded me that Middle Man is God's child who He loves. It taught me a few things about prayer to use in the future. I am not sure how prayer works but I know in this situation, it did work. Middle Man has a great teacher, who seems to really get him. He is loving school. He is being allowed the space he needs and also allowed to move beyond the standard. I am sure there will be challenges ahead, but I am hoping this year I will remember to pray first.

God was not only looking out for Middle Man who I was praying about, but God was also looking out for Hockey Boy who I had not really thought to pray for because I still felt like I was in control there. Again, God loves my boys so much more than I even know how to love them. God has a plan and purpose for them. Hockey Boy has moved around a lot in the last four years of school. He has been to four schools in four years. He has adapted well so I never really thought about it. But with a good kid like Hockey Boy you can slide under the radar and never really be challenged to grow. Hockey Boy got his same teacher from last year. She knows him well now and knows where he needs to be challenged. He trusts her so when she pushes he doesn't panic. He rises up to meet her challenge.

God is good to me and my family. Even when I don't know what to ask.

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