Wednesday, May 10, 2017

An Undesirable Child Loved By God

Dear Friends,

I had only been going to my neighborhood Foursquare church for just a few weeks when I was attacked during the service. Like in many services, there was a time between the worship and the sermon for people to greet and hug each other. This church did not take kindly to strangers in their service so I was being largely ignored and left alone. And then it happened. I was standing awkwardly in the aisle filled with people hugging and greeting each other when suddenly a small child hurled herself at me, grabbed my leg in a bear hug and wouldn’t let go.

She was about seven or eight years old and all I could see looking down was an unruly mop of dark hair and her small brown arms tightly holding on to me. I looked frantically around for possible parents, but no one was coming to my rescue. I asked her what her name was and she wouldn’t answer. She ran off to join the other children on their way to Sunday School and the grownups sat down to hear the sermon. I was guessing that all adult knees looked pretty much the same to a little kid so she must have confused me with someone else that she knew.

She did the same thing the next week and the next. Held on tightly, buried her face in my leg and didn’t let go until she had to. She wouldn’t talk to me. She just wanted to hold on to me. People were glaring at both her and me with disapproving expressions and I needed to talk with the Senior Pastor to find out what was going on with this child and with his congregation.

She lived in a house next door to the church and her mother sent her every Sunday. I found out that mom was a crack addict who sold her body for drug money and often brought the men to the house. The girl’s father had been killed during a drug deal. The pastor said, “We don’t know what to do with that child.” The pastor’s wife was angry that the little girl was there and told me she wished the mother would keep the child at home. Parents had complained that, because of the girl’s dysfunctional home life, they were afraid she would “contaminate” the good Christian children in the church. 

The pastor also explained about the murmuring of his “all-white” congregation. He told me that because of the girl’s affection towards me, people were assuming I was connected with her mother. I was told by the pastor’s wife to push the little girl off so she couldn’t hug me. They wanted her to go away. That’s what churches do with the “undesirables.” We reject, push away, ignore them and just hope they go away. So I upset the pastor’s wife by rebelliously doing what Jesus would do. Matthew 19:13-15 NLT 

The next time this child ran up the aisle to wrap herself around me, tears filled my eyes and I laid my hand on her head and prayed for her. In this little girl’s dysfunctional, tragic, abusive and pain-filled life, she had literally latched on to someone who felt safe and comfortable to her. She had been rejected, pushed off and ignored by her family and intrinsically she needed to reach out and hold on to Jesus. God gave her a large, tall stranger as His “stand-in.” She heard in my prayers how much God loved her and that He was with her now and would be forever. She heard that Jesus was the One she could hold on to when things got tough at home.

My only contract with the child was when I was surrounded by the congregation and was praying out-loud for her during the greeting time, but the murmurings of disapproval continued and the pastor’s wife now blamed me for the child wanting to continue to come to church. (The pastor did see that I was doing the right thing and I eventually became the counseling pastor at this church) That child came to church alone, troubled and pensive. She held on to me as I prayed for her and pronounced God’s blessings on her and she then ran off smiling and happy to Sunday school.

Suddenly she was gone and a For Rent sign was in front of her house. She would be in her mid to late 20's today and what she will never know is that the large, tall stranger who she had latched on to eighteen years ago still prays for her whenever he thinks of her.

When my step-daughter was at about that same age, she was very sensitive, easily hurt and would come home from school feeling flattened by what someone had said or done to her. After dinner, she would climb up to sit on my lap and want me to put my arm around her. I’d try to “fix” things for her and ask questions that never brought anything more than a nod for a “yes” or a shake of the head for a “no.” She didn’t want to talk. She just wanted a safe place to sit and be held.

In our own troubling moments, the “child” in each of us has an intrinsic need to reach out and hold on to Jesus for dear life. We need someOne safe to cling to. There are times in our life when we want to climb up into our Father’s lap and just sit there. Not talk. Just sit there. Sometimes we just need to be in the presence of our Heavenly Father. In the silence.. the solitude.. the stillness.. and just hold on to Him.  Amen?

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