Staying Under God's Umbrella of Grace
- 2010 7 Aug
As a former school teacher and school counselor, I have many wonderful memories of the first day of school. One particular scenario that brings a smile to my face is the kindergartner who stopped me in the hallway on his first day of school. Carrying a backpack longer than his body, he tapped me on the arm, reached up and whispered, "I am not sure that I have the right teacher." I smiled as he told me why. "My mom said that teachers are only nice after Christmas, but my teacher is smiling and it's only August."
Just like this little boy, I have often believed that I might have the "wrong" thing in my life when what I have been told does not match with what I can see. I often question God just as the little boy questioned me.
One such time came on the first day of my last year in education. I had new clothes, new make up, new day timer pages and a clean desk. I also had a new year in which I could start each day with prayer and this year would be no exception. I read my Bible, prayed, and asked God to help me be the best School Counselor that any Christian can be in the public school setting. After my prayer, I grabbed my briefcase and headed for the car.
The first day of school usually brought a spring to my step as I anticipated the adventures of a new year. This morning, however, seemed different. As I pulled out of the driveway and headed toward the school, I clearly heard God speak: "You are not to go back to school this year."
Immediately, I began to laugh. After all, there were bills to be paid and being newly married, I had to let my husband know that I would carry my end of the weight. Perhaps this was just my head reminding me that there would be no more days of "freedom" until next June.
When I arrived at school, I felt a heaviness and lack of enthusiasm. Believing that I must be tired from preparing for the new year, I trudged on and greeted the children with a smile. As the days rolled into months, however, my heaviness became greater and so did the problems that I faced on my job.
One particular school day stands out in my mind. I arrived at my office at the usual time and had not even unlocked my office door when I was approached by our school secretary. "Shannon, there has been a murder. The parents of two of our students have been killed, and we need for you to make sure that CPS has the children in custody."
Suddenly I went from greeting children in the hallway to needing a badge and a gun! I drove to the murder scene and made sure that our children were safe. As I left the scene, I specifically remember almost running over the blue glove of one of the coroners that was laying on the sidewalk.
"Just another day at the office" I thought. Many would be shocked at the things Educators deal with on a "typical" day.
Upon arriving back to school from the murder scene, I answered the phone that was ringing on my desk. A hysterical mother claiming her ex-husband had kidnapped her daughter and needing help finding her child screamed on the other end of the line. I talked her through the hysteria so that we could get to a place of reason, then turned it over to the authorities.
"Surely this is the end of crazy for one day," I thought.
No sooner had I completed that thought than the school secretary was back at my office door.
"Shannon, we need for you to go to the gym immediately. There is a dad in there who is angry that his child was accidentally hit in the eye by a jump rope yesterday. He has our principal pinned against the wall swinging a jump rope at her, and he has destroyed the gym. The children have been removed, but we need for you to stand in there with her until the police arrive."
Now, I know what you must be thinking by now. What kind of school is this? May I tell you that it is a very nice school district, but undoubtedly, several of our families were having a VERY bad day that day.
After my more than exhausting day, I went home, flopped on the couch and tried to forget the events of the day. I was able to keep my composure until my husband came home, looked at me with exhaustion and said, "I have had a very bad day." He then went on to tell me about his "very bad day."
Stewing as I listened to what seemed to be a "walk in the park" compared to my day, I responded in a harsh tone of voice, "YOU had a bad day? Let me tell you about MY day!" I went on to tell him about the events of my day when suddenly he looked at me with a calm demeanor, pointed his finger and said, "You're done."
Just like that, my world went from murder scenes and hysterical moms to fourteen years of a career coming to a screeching halt. My husband insisted I quit my job, and I was to do so immediately. He could not handle the stress I was under and that I was bringing to our new marriage as a result.
Thinking about the decision before me, I was suddenly reminded of what God had whispered on that first day of school: "You are not to go back to school this year." God did not mean "only if you feel like it." His command had been very clear, and I had disobeyed. As a result, I walked out from underneath the umbrella of His grace and protection and faced some very difficult obstacles.
The following day, I walked into my principal's office and explained my need to resign. During this time my dad was also having heart problems, and I needed to be there for my family. There were many reasons I needed to resign, but not one that was appropriate according to district guidelines. I expected great resistance from my principal, but what I got was a beautiful surprise. My Christian principal said through tears, "Shannon, I believe God has great things planned for your life. We actually had you longer than I expected. We will miss you terribly, but I know that God has plans to use your gifts and talents in a powerful way."
Just like that, I had been given the grace to do what God had told me to do in the first place.
After cleaning out my office I went home and sat at the end of the bed. I cried and asked God to forgive me for being disobedient, then held my hands up in the air and asked, "Now what?" I would love to say He gave me the answer right away, but instead, I spent the next five years of my life muddling through what He would have me do. In those five years, He shaped the beautiful ministry that I have the privilege of taking part in today.
Many times, we try to do things out of God's grace and timing and it simply doesn't work. Just like the little boy thought he might have the wrong teacher when what he heard and saw did not match, we often believe that what we hear and see must match before we can take a step. In God's "line of work" however, it does not happen that way. The opposite is often the case.
When we hear the voice of God it is sometimes months or even years until we see the plan unfold. That is what faith is all about. Moving when God says move even when the circumstances don't appear to match what we are hearing. In order to walk in God's grace, we must walk under His umbrella of guidance. As long as we are under His umbrella of protection, we can be sure that we are in the right place whether our circumstances seem to match what we are hearing or not.
It may not always be easy, but there will be a peace that comes as a result. It is when we get out from underneath the umbrella of God's grace and protection that we get ourselves into trouble. If we are behind or ahead, we are not covered and we are left in the most frightening position -- away from God.
In Luke 2: 41-52, Mary and Joseph made plans to return to their home town of Nazareth after enjoying the Feast of the Passover in Jerusalem. There was only one problem. They traveled half a day before they realized that Jesus was not with them. They had to go back and look to see where they had been separated from Him. If you are like me, many times I make my plans and reason that they are good only to find myself like Mary and Joseph. Half way through my journey, I have to go back to find out where I became separated from Jesus.
Are you feeling heavy, weighed down and hopeless today? Perhaps there is a place where you, as I did, walked out from the underneath the umbrella of God's grace and didn't even realize it. Maybe He was saying one thing but what you could see made much more sense and you took another road. Today He is standing right where you left Him. He is holding the umbrella and waiting for you to come running back under His protection. The beautiful thing is that He never folds up His umbrella of grace. It is always open and ready to cover us no matter how long we have been away.
August 7, 2010
Shannon Perry is a speaker/singer whose new If The Shoe Fits women's conferences combine her teaching prowess with her musical talent. Perry's new music CD entitled The Real Thing (produced by Lifeway writer/producer Paul Marino) features songs specifically written to fit in with the theme of the conferences. Perry wrote the bulk of the original presentation in hospital waiting rooms while her husband was undergoing cancer treatment. Perry earned her Master's Degree in Education with an emphasis in counseling and taught in the public school system for over fourteen years before entering into full-time ministry. She has previously-released music projects with both Daywind and Benson Records which garnered radio airplay on the national Christian charts. She has performed with the Houston Symphony and has even appeared at Carnegie Hall. She has been a featured soloist at the J&J Music Conferences in Houston, Texas, and led praise and worship at numerous women's conferences and for the national Lifeway conferences held annually in New Mexico and North Carolina. For more information, visit www.ShannonPerry.com