Sometimes after work, I get into my car and cry all the way home.
Yesterday was one of those days.
I spent the morning in a place that is in a tough neighbourhood. I’m used to this place. I know the kids. The kids know me. Usually they drive me nuts and I feel as though I accomplish nothing apart from nagging all day. These days are challenging, but not overwhelming. I’m used to it. I put on my no nonsense attitude and I get through the day.
But today, oh today was a very different day. Twenty six tiny children walked through my door and instantly I was hit with a smell that was almost unbearable. I soon found out that the smell quickly taking over the coat room was of cat urine from the clothes of one of the tiny girls before me. She greeted me with a big grin, her face dirty, her head shaved from a previous bout of head lice, but her mood as spunky and defiant as ever. When she got closer, the smell made me gag.
I can’t do this today. I can’t love her. I can’t do it.
I carried on with my morning as usual, but every time this little one came close, my eyes watered and I turned away. She is a kid who is full of boundless, untamed energy. She was in my face a lot. I was meant to work with her one on one, but instead I directed her to an activity on the other side of the room. I turned away. I did so gently, but I still turned away.
After my morning had ended, I had a chat with another adult who knows her. We talked about her cleanliness. We talked about her lack of healthy food in her lunch box. We talked about her overbearing and accusatory mother who refuses to accept any help or support. We talked, both almost in tears, about how this little girl’s spirit is not crushed, despite the fact everything in her life seems to be pitted against her. We talked about how this mother desperately needs help, but how she is fighting so hard against anyone reaching out to her.
I got in my car after work and cried.
I sat and cried, thinking of the unfairness of her situation. I cried thinking of how I turned away. I cried thinking of how I didn’t love her, when that was what she craved most. I cried, wondering about this little girl’s future. And I cried, thinking about how her situation is the very picture of us.
We are dirty, we are filthy, we are living in a world of brokenness. We are wild and untamed, yet we are trapped by something that does not let us run free. We are hardhearted. We refuse to accept help. We fight against what is best for us. We see light, but turn our backs to it. We turn away from what is good, what is blameless and what is truth. We are backwards.
Amidst my tears, I realized my own backwardness. I fight against the only One who can give me rest. I want to be free, but stubbornly refuse to look to the One who has already released me. I look downward in shame, when He looks at me with delight. I consider myself wretched, when He considers me beautiful. He never turns away. He never stops loving me. He never lets me go.
And when He does redirect me, it is ever so gently, lifting my head only to look back up at Him.
“Do all things without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain.” – Phillipians 2:14-16 (ESV)