Last week I got in my car and drove 16 hours to the kids I left in May. Hours and hours I drove to make it in time for Homecoming, to watch the game and see the dresses and hug the queen and let the new alums curse in front of me because they finally can. I pulled up Thursday afternoon and walked up to the school where I quite literally lived for two years.
To girls who screamed and ran to hug me.
To a wide receiver who told the football team they had to win homecoming for me—not to break an eight-year losing streak at homecoming but to thank me for showing up.
To a team that played their guts out and shattered the streak—and thanked me afterwards for being there.
To “I haven’t told anyone else about this, but….”
To “Please come back. Please—we need you.”
To the quarterback who schedules confessions for the team because I convinced him that he plays better in a state of grace.
To dozens of kids who still know all the books of the Bible in order.
To classrooms full of eager eyes and quick smiles, full of kids who still remember what I taught them.
To a volleyball team that yells not “Team” or “Ravens” but “Ms. H-K” when they go for the win.
To girls who stare at me from the bench until I look across the soccer field and see them waving.
To “I miss your homework and your notes.”
To “I took your notebook to college. Everyone else borrows it to study for tests.”
To “Can we talk while you’re in town?”
To “I need your help,” “Please pray for me,” ”I’ve hit rock bottom,” “I don’t think I can try anymore,” “What should I do?”
To a heart that burns with pride and weeps with frustration and fears and loves and despairs and hopes and prays and prays and prays.
And I ache and I cry because I just love them so hard. And when they ask me to come back I want so badly to say yes. I want so badly to be here for them and to love them and yell at them and challenge and console and listen and teach and advise and suffer and just be theirs.
But they don’t need me. Because if they needed me, I’d still be here. So when they ask me to stay, I just tell them, “I can’t. I’m in God’s will. I have to be faithful to that. I’m so sorry.”
I don’t miss grading or discipline or long days or constant disrespect or any number of stupid issues that plague teachers. But I miss my kids so much. I’m so blessed to be so loved by these little ones—these big ones, these “adults” who are still my babies—but their love makes it hurt all the more.
And I wonder if there’s always a longing when you’re in God’s will. My restless heart wants this life he’s given me and wants my kids, too. But the ache reminds me that this world is not my home. It reminds me that I was made for more. I’m glad of the reminder in the midst of a life so full of grace. I’m glad to feel the poverty of earthly joy because it reminds me to long for heaven. I’m glad to suffer whatever he asks me to suffer for the glory of his name and the salvation of souls. I’m glad, I am.
And still I weep for missing them.