Last Thursday's news was the kind of news that really does a number on one’s heart. One story many of us in this community have been following is about a beautiful young 14-year-old boy and his step-grandmother who lost their footing while crossing a creek hiking in the Grand Canyon. Both were swept downstream and have been missing ever since. I can’t even wrap my mind around the level of pain this family must be going through. There are just no words.
Another news story on the very same page was about a young 15-year-old girl, who was allegedly kidnapped by a much older man, was missing for over a month, and who has now been found and rescued. Again, how can one put into words what her family and friends must be feeling knowing she has been found, is alive and safe, and will be coming back home?
I have wrestled in my spirit knowing how to process these two stories sitting side by side on the same page, yet with such contrasting outcomes. On one hand, there are families, communities, and a school aching over what has been lost, and clinging to the hope of a miracle. On the other hand, there are families, communities, and another school jubilantly rejoicing over a missing teen who has now been found. Both scenarios are gut-wrenching, sobering, and so very hard to understand. How does one make sense of either narrative?
It is likely there are students in both schools connected to these two dichotomous scenarios who have unanswered questions, troubled emotions, and who are struggling to process difficult, mature concepts with minds and hearts that are still young, developing, and not equipped to deal with troublesome things of this nature.
Both stories are tragic in their own way and serve as a reminder that daily there are youth in all our schools carrying things in their hearts that are way bigger than they know what to do with. Many sit in their desks at school trying to focus on things they’re told are important, such as math or science, or verbs or pronouns, while trying to simultaneously process and cope internally with their own stories of hurt, pain, and loss. These stressors, from things in life that often don’t make sense, can manifest themselves in all kinds of ways in a young person’s life.
Many teens are learning at a young age that life can be tough, sometimes even cruel! The reality is that sometimes the circumstances of life, like these two perplexing stories, don’t begin to make sense and can feel really disturbing and confusing to our kids. Helping them process through some of their deeper questions about life, even at school, often becomes something they really need.
My youngest son happens to attend the same school and is in the grade below this precious boy who is missing. While the community has ached over this, it has been moving watching his school care lovingly for this family and for all its students as they try to process this tragedy. The school has provided multiple resources to help students work through their emotions and questions. As a school they have also prayed collectively and fervently for this situation and shared words from the Bible to bring comfort to the student body.
As for the young girl who was rescued, I know nothing about her school or how they have been helping their students process that circumstance. However, we are grateful that for 95 years students in Hamilton County public schools have been able to elect Bible history classes, through which many students facing hard times have shared that they have found hope and comfort in the words of the Bible.
It is likely that there are circumstances in each one of our lives we may never have answers for, or situations that may always feel painful or confusing. It’s also probable that at some point or another we will all be faced with something so tough it will take us to that place where all we can do is put one foot in front of the other as we cling to the hope of a miracle.
Knowing life at times can be so hard and sometimes may not make sense to us, we believe it is so important that students have exposure to the Bible and to the hope and comfort it can bring, especially during the times they need it the most. One Bible history student Janaria wrote, “The Bible can help you understand things in life. It can help you get through a lot of things you can’t handle.” Another young man in Bible history named Sean said, “The Bible was like a life map for me when I felt lost.”
Whether we pray or pause in respect for the pain of those searching for loved ones lost, or give thanks with those for a life that has been found, we can be reminded that people young and old for thousands of generations have turned to the Bible to bring comfort to the hurting and healing to the broken. Even though life won’t always make sense, we give thanks that because of the community’s gracious gifts to this public school Bible history program, this same book is still able to offer comfort, hope, and healing to students in our schools today.