Journal of Joy ~ Oak Grove Encounter ~ October 1959
Nestled in an Oak Grove, on a cold, foggy October morning, I sat huddled behind the gray dilapidated weathered barn at Mohawk Elementary School which served as the school gymnasium. Hoping and praying my third year was going to be better than my second grade in public school. My second-year teacher was discharged from her position for emotionally and verbally abusing children in the classroom. This was my first time to be in a class with my twin sister as the previous public school did not allow twins to be in the same classroom and to the limited perspective of an eight-year old the year was not progressing favorably.
Not knowing what it was like to have friends, I watched my fraternal twin sister make friends effortlessly. I could not figure out how she did it. Since the beginning of the school year, I had diligently worked to have a best friend. With three girls and two boys (including my sister and myself) in our class the opportunities were limited. Being a girl in the third grade simply meant that being friends with boys was not a possibility. One might acquire a 1950’s elementary school disease called “boyitis.” Patty, the only other girl in our class, decided this particular morning that she wanted to be bestfriends with my twin sister instead of me. It was a nonchalant decision on her part, yet a monumental moment in the life of one little girl.
My uncontrollable sobs loudly disrupted the first, second and third grade classes, all housed in the cheerfully decorated classroom of the two-room elementary school. Compassionately as was her nature, Mrs. Conley, my teacher suggested that I take a walk outside for a few minutes “to calm myself down.” Mrs. Conley remains one of my favorite teachers because of her kindness and the way she made every student feel genuinely valued as though they had something special and unique to contribute to the class.
Quickly and gratefully, I escaped the students’ stares and took immediate refuge in my little Oak Leaf House. During recess, while the boys played ball, the girls would make little houses by sweeping thin rows of orange, brown, green, red, and yellow oak leaves into walls and door openings. This was in the seasons before asphalt surfaces and playground equipment. Nature was our playground, tall gangly oak and expansive maple trees were the places we climbed and explored (Isaiah 61:3).
In my little house, the hard-packed dirt floor was swept smooth. October mist like a white linen shroud hugged the naked limbs of the gangly oak trees providing the ceiling above. The small brook bordering the school yard joyously sang and bubbled amicably, in anticipation of exchanging my sadness with hope (Ezekiel 47:12).
Huddled on the ground, the cold dirt pressed against my bare legs, with my school dress pulled tightly over my knees and my head hidden in my folded arms, I cried. “What did I do wrong? Why can’t I make friends?” Not having any answers, I punished myself with more questions. Reiterating all of my failed attempts… I had given up my place in the lunch line…I had given up my place in the tether ball line . . . what did I do wrong…why couldn’t I make friends…what was wrong with me?
As I shivered uncontrollably sitting on the cold ground, I wondered what I should do next realizing that I could not stay outside too many more minutes without my teacher coming to look for me. Because my body was shuddering with sobs, it took me awhile to notice the warmth that calmly and gently surrounded me. It was as though I had walked into a warm house out of the freezing cold. Without explanation, my chattering and shivering ceased.
Someone is watching me, I thought, as I slowly peeked through my crossed arms. “Jesus,” was the first word out of my mouth. I knew who HE was immediately. “Jesus,” I whispered again. He took a couple of steps toward me. Frozen in time and space, I simply could not move. “Jesus,” hearing the sound of my voice again, I reached up to rub away the tears on my cheeks and looked up into the warmest, kindest eyes I had ever seen. Jesus reached toward me with His right hand and with deep tenderness responded, “Jennie, I will be your Best Friend.” (I noticed that He knew my name) “You will!” I exclaimed in awe. “You promise?” I asked with all the hope an eight-year-old could find. With more strength, peace, and love than I had ever experienced or could even begin to understand, smiling warmly, He declared, “Yes, I promise.”
Still not understanding this to be possible, I asked again, “Will you be my Best Friend forever?” Laughing gently, He leaned toward me and assured me, “Yes, I will be your Best Friend forever.” Hot tears streamed down my cold, rosy cheeks as I listened intently to the sound of His voice. “Even when you can’t see Me, I am with you. Even when you can’t hear the sound of My voice, I am here. I will always love you” (Joshua 1:5; Hebrews 7:25).
Jesus answered the questions I was thinking in my mind even though I was not speaking any words. Overwhelmed, I could not make a sound nor could I move. Then, turning to leave, HE his eyes smiled again and He simply said, “I am going now.”
Stunned by HIS presence – HIS warmth still surrounding me, I sat for a few minutes trying to figure out what had just happened. Like background music the melodic brook bubbled up sounds of joy. “Jesus came to see me! I do have a Best Friend! I am somebody!” I whispered out loud.
As the chilly October weather slowly replaced His warmth, self-doubts began to whittle away at my fragile hope. When pondering about returning to class, I remembered Patty’s words and the reason I was outside. Securing my doubts into place, I thought to myself, “You are so stupid! You can’t even make one friend.” The tears rolled slowly down my cheeks once again. I felt so totally and completely alone.
Dejected, I slowly unfolded myself, stiffly rose, and began the seemingly long walk back to the classroom. Suddenly, I stopped near the doorway of my little Oak Leaf House. Kneeling down, I watched my fingers trace HIS footprints in the dirt. Touching HIS footprints completely erased the doubts written across my mind. “Jesus did come! Jesus does love me! Jesus does know my name! Jesus is my Best Friend!” I exclaimed.
Ignoring the cold, foggy October weather, I laughed out loud as I skipped back to class, hugging the precious secret tightly to my heart!
~~~~~ Although quite young, I had discovered that self was truly insufficient. I became cognitively and spiritually aware that I would always need the friendship of Jesus. At the time friendship was defined as Lord, Savior, Teacher, Comforter and Safe Place. It was over thirty years later that the Holy Spirit became intrinsically relevant in my life, and another decade passed before I would entertain an intimate relationship with God the Father. Yet, the conscious need for divine assistance, holy wisdom, revelation knowledge, sacred intimate relationship, eternal perspective, angelic protection has remained essentially fundamental throughout the days of my life. It was at this juncture in time that the development of my relationship with ELOHIM became characteristically mine. The destiny of YESHUA within me was realized on that golden October morning.
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