Jackson*, a fourth grade student on my bus, has been a bit of a handful lately. More than a few times in recent weeks I have had to talk to his school principal for various infractions on the bus, from wrestling and punching to using inappropriate language, etc. He is fairly new to the school having moved into the area about eight weeks ago.
After calling Jackson to the front seat, I moved everyone else back a couple of rows to create a buffer zone and effectively isolate him. He fell right to sleep.
I drove on, dropping students and pondering what to do. I really wanted to drop the hammer on him, but my bus is brand spanking new and no camera has been installed yet. It would be his word against his accusers. He is my last stop each afternoon so I had time to think.
As I rolled away from my next to last stop a still small Voice said, ‘Encourage him.’
I pulled to a stop at an intersection several hundred yards from his house and called to wake him, “Jackson! Jackson, wake up.”
He sat with a start. I wanted to talk before dropping him off.
“Jackson, you didn’t have a very good day, today, did you?”
“I know you can do better. You are a smart young man.”
“I know,” he said, somewhat sullenly.
We talked for a minute and I explained I was not going to get the principal involved this time, but I want him to try harder. I finished with, “I believe in you. I know you can do better, okay?”
I pulled onto the road, headed for his stop.
As I activated lights and parking brakes, I instinctively blocked the exit with my arm waiting to verify the stop sign and crossing gate were out before letting him exit. Then, as he stepped into the stairwell he turned and said, “Mr. Rambo? Did you notice something different about my house?”
“No. What is it?”
“The chair and the table that were on the porch are gone.”
“Really?” It seemed an odd comment.
As he stepped off the bus he turned and said, “They were my step-father’s, but he took them when he left us this weekend.”
My heart broke as the pieces fell into place. Of course! He was at the stop this morning alone…. For the first time since riding my bus.
I hollered after him, “Its going to be okay. You’ll make it.” It was all I could think of in the moment.
As I rolled up the road pondering I was thankful for that still small Voice that said, “encourage him.” Not knowing his situation I could have so easily added to the burden on his little shoulders, instead the Spirit gave a moment of relief, and in the sensitivity allowed me to peek at a ministry opportunity. Jackson and I will talk some more in the coming days.
But, I also thought about justice and mercy as it pertains to the Law. How often we deserve the Father to drop the hammer on us, yet He responds with mercy over justice. And yes, the justice fell on Messiah Yeshua, but that doesn’t free us from all consequences of our sin. We can still lose a recess or two…
There is also the aspect that mercy given does not give Jackson, or us, freedom to ignore the rules in the future. The Law stands. We can be forgiven of transgressions in Yeshua, but we are not free to continue in sin. Rather, the mercy should encourage us to walk rightly knowing that we have been given grace.
Pray for Jackson and his mom’s situation, but also ponder the lessons in this little episode. How often can we dispense mercy over justice? How should we respond to receiving mercy?