Holding Their Hands

dirty

For the past week and a half, I was in South Dakota helping with Vacation Bible School on one of the reservations.  I am always captivated by the wide open sky out there that showcases hosts of stars at night and a moon that seems large enough to touch.  Each time I am there, I leave pieces of my heart behind as I fall madly in love with the kids.

But after short-term mission work or week-long bible schools I feel ashamed of us, Christians.  More personally, I feel ashamed of myself.

I’m ashamed of the way I hold my head away from the child in my lap so that I will not get lice.  I’m ashamed of the thoughts (or should I say worries about diseases) that cross my mind as I wipe bloody noses.  I’m ashamed of how quickly I wash after I’m done holding the kids’ sticky hands.  I’m ashamed of the way I revolt at the dirty clothing worn day after day or the smell of wet diapers that were never changed before a four-year old arrived for bible school.  But mostly I’m ashamed that I don’t step out of my clean comfortable world often enough to be okay with touching, hugging, and holding the dirty, hurting, and forgotten.

If I could step into these kids’ shoes and see their actual lives, I would hold unto them and weep, never once thinking about how my name-brand clothing is being soiled or how their lollipop is stuck in my hair.

If I saw the way River’s mom was too drunk to even know where her daughter was, I wouldn’t care about the spaghetti sauce caked around River’s mouth; I would kiss her cheek and let her know that she is loved.  If I saw the way Jordan’s dad beat him, I wouldn’t care how much his clothing stank; I would wrap my arms around him and wipe away his tears.  If I saw the house that Summer lives in, I would not care about the lice crawling through her hair; I would bring my head against hers and tell her how special she really is.

That’s what children like this need to see- not a bunch of “clean” Christians who swoop through a place for a few days with Bible stories (so they can say they did something for God or have pictures to show people at home how lucky they are to have been raised in a good home)—– but a Christian who isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty and live out the love of Jesus day after day because his heart is overflowing with compassion and mercy. .

I don’t have anything against short-term mission work and summer bible schools; in fact, I plan to still help with such things because a lot of amazing things can be done for God through these.  But I want to challenge myself to make it a daily habit to step out of my comfort zone and “get dirty”.  The best example we could ever have is Jesus.  Jesus actually touched the lepers, even though they were contagious, stinky outcasts whose skin was deteriorating and rotting.  Jesus laid His hands upon the sick and hurting because He wanted to show that His love was greater than their sickness, destitution, or social status.

I want to break the shell that separates me from the world.  I want to let go of the values I place on the physical and switch it to the emotional and spiritual levels.  I want to serve until I no longer see people in terms of appearance but I see them in the way that God sees them.  I want my arms to be open, even to the unloveliest child.  I want my heart to break for the most forgotten elderly person.  I want my tears to be shed for the hurting teenager.

This is a fairly familiar song, but I love the lyrics every time I hear it.

“Looked down from a broken sky
Traced out by the city lights
My world from a mile high
Best seat in the house tonight
Touched down on the cold black top
Hold on for the sudden stop
Breathe in the familiar shock
Of confusion
And chaos

All those people goin’ somewhere
Why have I never cared?

Give me Your eyes for just one second
Give me Your eyes so I can see
Everything that I keep missing
Give me Your love for humanity
Give me Your arms for the broken-hearted
The ones that are far beyond my reach
Give me Your heart for the ones forgotten
Give me Your eyes so I can see

Step out on a busy street
See a girl and our eyes meet
Does her best to smile at me
To hide what’s underneath
There’s a man just to her right
Black suit and a bright red tie
Too ashamed to tell his wife
He’s out of work, he’s buyin’ time

All those people goin’ somewhere
Why have I never cared?

Give me Your eyes for just one second
Give me Your eyes so I can see
Everything that I keep missing
Give me Your love for humanity
Give me Your arms for the broken-hearted
The ones that are far beyond my reach
Give me Your heart for the ones forgotten
Give me Your eyes so I can see

I’ve been there a million times
A couple of million eyes
Just move and pass me by
I swear I never thought that I was wrong
Well I want a second glance
So give me a second chance
To see the way You’ve seen the people all along

Give me Your eyes for just one second
Give me Your eyes so I can see
Everything that I keep missing
Give me Your love for humanity
Give me Your arms for the broken-hearted
The ones that are far beyond my reach
Give me Your heart for the ones forgotten
Give me Your eyes so I can see” -Brandon Heath

Cobweb: The Unloved Kitten…. Part 1 and 2

Cobweb: The Unloved Kitten

cat 2

It all started when the family decided that we would rather have cats roaming our property than mice.The traps and mouse bait just didn’t seem to be doing the trick of eliminating those scurrying creatures; so my brother and I embarked on a kitten finding expedition.It didn’t take us long to drive to a home that had  big sign out front reading “Free Kittens”.  We parked the truck and got out to see what little fuzzy-wuzzy kittens we would be taking home with us.

We soon found out that these kittens were wild because of limited human contact.

Oh well, we figured.  We were there now; so we might as well find the best ones and see what we could do with them.

The lady that owned the kittens proceeded to try to catch the three that we picked out.  That was a crazy adventure in itself.  The kittens would run and hiss and scratch- it wasn’t a pretty picture.

When it was finally all done and said and the renegades had been captured, we had a black and white kitten, a long-haired grey kitten, and a grey-striped kitten all riding home with us in a box.

On the way back to our place, we came across another “Free Kittens” sign; and decided to check out these kittens.  At this farm, there were some young children outside playing; and they easily picked up two of the cutest little kittens that they had named Butterscotch and Princess.

Well, we just couldn’t resist a lil’ blondie and a multi-colored rascal; so we added another two kittens to our collection.

We finally arrived home without anymore stops and proceeded to make a home for the kittens in the back, unused room of our office.  We figured that we would keep them there until they got older and more used to us.  We opened the box, and the strangest collection of kittens came hurrying out.  Immediately the wild ones all fled to corners to take refuge from these strange humans.

We easily assigned names to our new pets.  Panther was the black and white kitten, Napoleon was the grey-striped, Butterscotch was the Blondie, and Princess was the multi-colored.  Lastly, we decided to call the very wildest kitten, Cobweb, since she was busy sleeking through the corners and catching hidden spiderwebs in her long hair.

Butterscotch and Princess had no trouble at all adjusting to human contact.  They were busy winding around our legs wanting attention.  After a little, Napoleon started to cautiously approach us.  Eventually we could pet him; and after that he became a little bit of a pest!  It seems he must have wanted to make up for his childhood of no affection; because he insisted on being pampered.  If you stopped petting him, he started to meow a pitiful cry until someone took pity on him and gave him more love.

So we had three for us and two against us.  Panther and Cobweb still clung to the shadows of solitude.  We kept showing attention to the others, supplying them with fresh food and milk, and showing up day after day to spend time with the group.

I started to notice that Panther would get closer and closer each time.  She would just sit and watch while the other three would be getting petted.  Their contented purring seemed to strike up a longing inside of her.

Finally, the day arrived when she made the step forward.  She cautiously approached my hand.  I slowly moved my hand towards her, afraid that any sudden movement would send her scampering away.  A smile spread across my face when I finally got to pet her.  She moved closer yet and actually started to purr!  A thrill of success and achievement crowned my heart with victory.

Cobweb still was untrusting.  She could see that all the rest were safe and happy, but she just couldn’t give in to trust.  Eventually she started to sit closer and closer to me; she even sniffed my brother’s hand one time when it was his turn to care for them.

But she still hadn’t totally lost all her fear and mistrust.  Only time will tell if love and patience will triumph.  I am hoping that it will.  One day, I trust that Cobweb will be just like the other kittens.

Cobweb’s reactions really started me thinking the last couple of days.  She reminds me like the thousands and millions of children that have been abused, neglected, or forced to survive in the foster care system.  She has seen so much that is the opposite of love, that she can’t actually recognize love.

She hangs in the shadows hoping that no one will pay attention to her; while at the same time, wishing someone would.  She hisses and scratches the ones who approach her; because she doesn’t want to be hurt again.  Her trust has been broken so many times, and is not easily repaired.  She envies the ones that are receiving kindness, but yet she can’t seem to break down the wall that separates her from them.

Children’s faces line my mind’s eye when I think of Cobweb.  The tears well up in my eyes when I think about all the little souls that are living in the shadows of solitude like Cobweb does.

Those children are condemned or ridiculed when they lash out; people give up on them; they are the ones called by the world as hopeless and not standing a chance.

Perhaps all they need is someone who is willing to take the time—-lots and lots of time—- to just be there for them, to just be a caring presence in their life.  Not someone who forces acceptance or love; but someone who is willing to wait and wait and wait until the child slowly approaches and breaks down their wall of fear and mistrust.

It’s hard to be that person; because it hurts when the child hisses or scratches you- even though you are devoting all your time and love and attention to help them.  It frustrates you to see the child sitting in the corner and shutting the world out.

However, God is there.  If He sees the little sparrow fall, He cares so much more for those little hurting lives that fill the world today.  He wraps His arms around every child that is living in the shadows, that is trying to run from the pain.  He can see and feel their pain, and will bless the ones that are trying to help the hurting lives around them.  He will give grace to the giver, and love to the server, and fortitude to the ones that persevere.  Parents, teachers, caregivers, sunday school teachers- – – He will give you the patience and endurance to be there for “Cobweb: The Unloved Kitten” until she starts to trust and love again!

——May 8, 2014

“Cobweb: The Unloved Kitten”    Part 2

cat

The kittens grew up to be cats, and we moved them out to the shop so that they could start getting acquainted with their surroundings and browse the outdoors.  Some decided to embark upon their own adventures and travel the world, some decided to stay home and raise a family, and Cobweb decided to stay on sleeking about the place.

Then the breakthrough happened; Cobweb crept near enough to be touched.  The last stone of the wall in Cobweb’s heart had crumbled, and she was free to feel the emotion that she had held herself away from for so long.  She had finally allowed human touch and affection into her life.  It was not an immediate transaction- she still pulled back if we moved too quickly or caught her off guard, but there was ground being won in the fight for her trust.

Cobweb was laid to rest about a year and a half ago.  The best that I could figure was that she had gotten in a fight with an animal bigger and stronger than her.  But when she left us, she was no longer that mistrusting, wild, hateful kitten; instead she had become a beautiful, affectionate, tame cat that had finally experienced what it felt like to be loved and had learned how to love as well.  In the last few weeks of her life, she would follow us up to the house and sit outside the window watching and waiting until we came back outside and she could let us know how much she appreciated us.

Love is the strongest weapon that man has ever known.  To love takes effort and time and energy, to love is opening yourself for disappointment and hurt, to love the unlovable may bring ridicule and shame…but love is always worth it.  

 

Maybe you are in a situation right now with someone that is like Cobweb and seems impenetrable and unreachable.  No matter how discouraged and hopeless you feel the situation is, don’t give up!  I hate to tell you that you may never be able to see the results of your patience and tears, here on earth; but the good news is that God is still using your love in ways that you can’t begin to imagine, whether you see it or not.

Someday that wall of hate, bitterness, and fear of love may crumble in that child or adult’s life; but it will only happen because your love helped them chip away at it a little at a time.  If you give up now, the wall will only become stronger as weeds and vines entrench around it; and the person inside will hide further and further back in the shadows. 

 

Love doesn’t ram the wall, but love isn’t afraid of it either.  Love is standing at the wall and sending cookies over; love is praying to God for sunshine to illuminate the dark forest on the other side; love is spending tears as you hurt and are hurt by the hidden person; love is not paying attention to the remarks that passerbys sneer; love is simply standing there with your hand outstretched and letting the person on the other side know that you are there and will wait for them as long as you have to; love is not afraid to touch the unwashed, grimy hand when the other person finally reaches out; and love does not give up when the hand pulls back and disappears again- because love knows that there is no stronger force on earth.

1 Corinthians 13:4-8

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.