A Different Path
It’s August. Summer is coming to a close and another school year is about to begin. Normally, I would be busy making sure my daughter has enough clothes that fit her and buying all the necessary school supplies. But this year is different. This year, I have been busy researching alternative school options: private schools, other public schools, online schools and homeschooling. It’s been terrifying and I have cried a lot to God, praying He leads us to the right decision.
It was so easy to follow the herd all these years. Sign up for this particular school because that’s what you do. It was so easy to tell my daughter that everybody goes through social troubles at school, so toughen that skin up and hold your head high as you deal with the other kids. I’d tell her that it’s a good learning experience because, no matter where you go in life, you will have to deal with people who don’t like you. I’d then say a quick prayer to God that the issues would work themselves out without me.
I’m a busy working parent and do some traveling for my job. Earlier this year, I received a phone call that brought me to my knees in the middle of the airport, as I was heading home from a week-long trip. The High School dean called to tell me she learned through rumors spreading in the hall that my daughter was sexually assaulted, and my daughter confirmed it. The dean continued to talk to me, but I didn’t hear anything. I fell to my knees and wept, feeling that I’d failed my daughter. I failed to keep her safe. I failed to give her enough guidance about being a strong, confident, smart young woman who belongs to Jesus Christ. I prayed. I prayed and prayed and prayed on that long flight home and while I felt God’s strong presence, I couldn’t accept it.
She had planned to tell me what happened, but wanted to wait until I returned home. She said she didn’t want to ruin my trip. It was soul-crushing to hear this. However, she decided to confide in two friends instead. One chose to talk to her and convince her to talk to his mother, who then encouraged her to talk to me. The other friend didn’t believe her and told the boy who assaulted her instead.
That simple act by the other friend snowballed. Soon, everyone heard the story until it reached the school dean and ultimately me. As a parent, I wanted to lock her away in a tower somewhere and protect her from the evil in this world. Her friends chose to not believe her. One by one, her friends left her, accusing her of lying. And it didn’t end there. Social media allowed kids to continue to harass her over and over, saying terrible things and presumably these kids didn’t mind the psychological trauma they inflicted on this girl. Social media allowed these kids to continue on for months. MONTHS of comments. Months of sneakily taking pictures of her and posting them online with crude comments. Running up to her at the store, laughing at her and taking her picture – right in front of me.
I know that God has been with us through it all. God was with us when we cried. God was with my daughter every night when she couldn’t sleep, reliving the incident that happened right there in her bedroom. God was with us when she endured a rape exam at the hospital, when I sat there and held her hand. God was with us when we decided that too many kids were hurting my daughter and no amount of security could keep her safe in that school. God was with us when He led us to a friend who introduced us to new school options. God was in that friend. It was so blatantly clear that He was the one, welcoming us with open arms and introducing us to a new, healthier environment of other Christians.
So here we are, closing the door on one very hard year…and flinging open another door with great joy, as we begin the path God led us to. For parents with kids starting or returning to high school, I beg of you to talk to them. Remind them that every action has a consequence. Every comment, every text, every post, every time they intentionally ignore someone’s plea for kindness and love: It has a consequence. High school is loaded with kids who are learning who they are – or who they want to be. These kids need to know that Jesus Christ wants them to be like Him.