The cultural answer is that The Shadow knows the evil, but I think Scripture addressed this first in Jerimiah 17:9 and following. Today is a Monday and this is a heavy post. Sorry.
She's a Senior at a local high school -- pretty, popular, and flourishing. At least externally. Inside, well, that's a different story.
"I'm fine," she tells me with a genuinely faked smile she's mastered for the sake of others. The tell-tale "thumbs up" completes the charade. I've seen it dozens of times before.
I give her a look.
"Stupid people believe me," she bursts out. "Why can't you be stupid?"
I offer my standard response. "I went to college."
Sometimes you have to make light of things when there are no more tears. She spilled all hers hours ago. She refuses to tell me what's going on, but the edges of the puzzle are coming together. It has something to do with her boyfriend, or ex-boyfriend, or whatever is going on there. "It's not rape," she assures me. "I don't want you to assume the wrong thing."
Not that abuse isn't part of her history, it's just that those events are so far in the past that she copes by keeping it all neatly packaged deep down somewhere dark. She's also been belittled in word and in deed. Her school, she tells me, isn't helping. And she has a lot to do and she should go.
When she does leave, her parting words are, "I hate you so much." She may mean it, or not, it's hard to say. I'm not sure she knows what she thinks at the moment. Not surprising, given what she's been through. And I've only seen a flicker of those shadows.
That experience fresh on my mind, Elizabeth's post about minimizing abuse in Christian homeschooling felt far too close to home. And I had a great homeschool experience! I had a good public high school experience too. But the brutally intense waves that ripple from "a few" bad experiences drown people. They give up. Or, they come close, letting the black waters consume them and bury them in the deep.
This isn't something I can fix. I want to. Oh, how I wish I could say or do something that would fix this! Instead, I sit and wait for the day when they open up. I'm not a therapist, but that's actually a good thing. They've all had terrible experiences with therapists. All of them.
Let us not get myopic in our view of homeschooling. It's not all perfect and lovely. It's not all abuse and hiding. My sheltered homeschool experience was amazing! But that's because my parents were preparing me to reach out, not trying to keep me insulated from the world. The potential for abuse is rampant everywhere; let's stop lying that it doesn't happen in homes. All the more reason to show your students that the world isn't perfect.
I don't have answers. I have yet to read anyone who does. But I think it's important to remind ourselves that the heart is desperately wicked and that we need God's grace and transforming power in our lives. And if something isn't going well, it's time to reach out for help.
But that's hard. I know it's hard. I wish I had more to offer. I wish I had answers, solutions.
The only thing I know is that we all need to draw closer to Christ, to let Him do the lifting and the pruning, and to soak in His grace so we can be brave enough to recognize our shortcomings and walk in grace when we encounter the brokenness in others.
Filmmaker, Writer, Pseudo-Dad
P.S. Four years ago I wrote a poem about a very similar experience with a very similar girl. I titled it Smiles.