Here I Am…Send Them
By Mike Hicks
In a “normal” year, 55 million children would be heading back to school this fall; but things are far from normal. Seemingly overnight, COVID-19 has changed everything. For a Christian educator it hasn’t just changed the way school will look or how we will do our jobs, but it has changed the questions we are asking ourselves, and others.
Will I be safe if we go back to in-person school?
Will my loved ones be safe when I come home?
Will my children be safe if I send them?
If I don’t send them back, what will learning look like for them?
Will I even have a job, or will I be asked to do something I never signed up for when I entered this profession?
These are very personal questions. We all have a particular story that no one else truly understands. Some educators are concerned with their own well-being. They have survived cancer, have diabetes, or are in an at-risk age bracket. Some are caregivers for an elderly parent, or they have a child at home with a compromised immune system. Their fears and anxieties are real and the stress of facing an unknown future is heavy. To make matters worse, it’s risky trying to process and articulate our emotions to others, especially with so much division and strife engulfing our country.
Educators are especially in the crosshairs, often blamed for being cowards and accused of drawing tax-payer funded salaries while “sitting at home.” But it’s not that simple, is it? A single mom may desperately need her three children back in school so she can return to work, but teachers, on the other hand, are concerned about being in close proximity to possibly hundreds of children, each a potential carrier of a deadly virus. In all of this confusion and uncertainty, how can we possibly see a clear way forward where everyone is safe and all our particular needs are met?
Could I suggest a different perspective?
As Christian educators, shouldn’t we be asking a different set of questions?
When we came to Christ, we asked Him to forgive our sins and make His home in us. But didn’t we also ask Him to take control of our lives and guide our steps? We read His words, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross and follow me. For whoever will save his life shall lose it; and whosoever will lose his life for my sake will find it.” (Luke 9:23-24) Truth be told, most of us never expected that it might ever actually come to that.
I’m not trying to be callous and insensitive. I really do get it. The fear is real, but safety was never part of the deal. Following Christ literally means we will live, or die for Him (Philippians 1:21).
I am a follower of Jesus in America, and the truth is, other than a few occasions during my work in the inner city of Chicago, I haven’t needed to consider my personal safety in order to go where God has sent me. I am completely ill-prepared to relate to the Apostle Paul who was
“frequently imprisoned, exposed to death again and again, three times beaten with rods, five times flogged (40 lashes minus one), pelted with stones and three times shipwrecked.” The list of his hardships goes on and on in 2 Corinthians 11:23-28. Certainly, following Christ was anything but safe for the early disciples, and even now for Christians in other parts of the world.
As I reflect on what it means for me to follow Jesus, the most important question is not, “Is it safe?” but rather, “Am I sent?” Jesus told His disciples, “As the Father has sent me into the world, so now I send you.” (John 20:21) When urged to eat after a long day of travel, and ministering to a thirsty soul by a well in Samaria, He replied, “My food is to do the will of the One who sent me and to accomplish His work” (John 4:34).
As we wait to hear more about what school will look like in the fall, I encourage you to ask a different question.
What have you been sent to do?
I am not attempting to shame you into risking your safety by returning to your work with children, but simply to narrow the questions to one. Some, I believe, may be called to stay home. Not returning will be the most courageous thing they have ever been asked to do. It’s not a question of risk/reward or weighing out the pros and cons. For all of us it’s a matter of courageous obedience.
What is God asking of you?
We know among those 55 million children there are scores who live in broken, dysfunctional homes, and for them, school is the safest place they could be. They get two healthy meals at school, they have positive role models and loving adults who care for them, affirm them and give them hope. School is their happy place; a place of safety, and with the problems at home, COVID-19 is the least of their worries. When it comes to the emotional, mental, spiritual and sometimes even physical needs of our children, you are desperately needed.
You are their first responders! You are essential!
Your influence in their lives has eternal consequences. If you are called to go back and love them, to be the arms of Jesus that welcomes and embraces them (Matthew 18:5), you will indeed be among the COVID-19 heroes in America.
As Christian educators many of us entered the profession because God planted in us a love for children and a burden for their well-being and development. Why did He put this in our hearts?
Why were we “chosen and appointed” for this special assignment (John 15:16). Consider this question, “Are you a “sent one” entrusted to care for children?” If the answer is yes, then all the other questions narrow to one.
Will You follow Him?
Are you hearing what Isaiah heard?
“I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘whom shall I send? Who will go? And Isaiah replied, ‘Here I am…send me’.” (Isaiah 6:8)
Fear might tempt us to say, “Here I am…but please Lord, send someone else.” It’s human, but it’s not what God has called us to. What is God asking you to do? That’s the real question. Whether it is to go, or to stay home, whether to remain in education or find other employment, the peace of God always follows obedience.
Whether good times or bad, pandemic or not, the safest place for anyone is in the center of God’s will. And if He sends You into dangerous places, where safety is questionable for you and those you love, consider these promises:
“The Lord Himself goes before you and will be with you; He will never leave you or forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged” (Deuteronomy 31:8).
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9).
“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything in all creation will be able to keep us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:38-39).
As a Christian, devising a plan that seems good to us is not as important as discerning what God is sending us to do. Seek Him earnestly. Read His word and listen prayerfully for His direction. Don’t lean on your own understanding, but trust Him with all your heart and He will make your path straight (Proverbs 3:5-6).
When the servants came to Mary at a wedding in Galilee and told her they had run out of wine she pointed to Jesus and said, “Whatever He tells you to do…do it” (John 2:5). That is a good word for us today. It narrows all the questions to one.
What is Jesus asking you to do? When you have an answer to that question, just obey and follow Him and His peace will rest upon you.
It may not be easy, but it’s the way forward. Others not on the journey to follow Jesus will not understand. They will think it foolish, and may even attack and persecute you for your faith, but that was always part of the deal too.