A Lesson From My 9 Year Old

I had been running all day and had just realized that I had zero plans for dinner.  Once again all my good intentions of planning everything out had dissolved along with my give-a-crap button.  Cereal? Nah, it just didn’t sound like it would work for dinner, not long term, the girls would be hungry again in an hour.  So, on day 5 of solo parenting, in the heat, with a mouth still on fire from having surgery on my tongue, I loaded up kids and headed to the grocery store.

As we pulled into the Raley’s parking lot we saw him.  A skinny, middle-aged man, deeply tanned with a medium length white beard, holding up his sign that read, “Just hungry and ugly.”  I sighed and did my best to avoid eye contact. I didn’t have the time or energy to help, plus he was probably just scamming. I wasn’t ignorant on how things could work.

Just buy him some food.  It is hot, he is saying he is hungry, you can, so you should.  But I really don’t feel like it at all right now and there was always someone in need…

“Hey mom, did you see that guy?  Did you read his sign?” asked my 9 year old in the backseat.

“Yes baby.”

“Mom, did you see his eyes?  They look sad. You say to always look at the eyes.”

I had purposefully not looked at his eyes actually…

Just buy him some food

“Baby, will you help me pick out some food to buy him?”

With incredible excitement and a sparkle in her eyes, she sat up straight and said, “Really mom?  Can I hand it to him? Can I be the one to give it to him after we get it?”

He is filthy, she is a child, the germs, the what if’s, all the reasons that immediately flew into my head to be solid reasons to say “NO! Baby I will do this.”

What are you teaching her?

Mic drop.

What was I teaching her?  Was I being wise or just afraid?  Why was I even thinking the thoughts I was?  But more importantly, was I teaching her to love others like Jesus did and does?

But Jesus knows about boundaries!  

Wait, DID Jesus have boundaries?  If he did, would they have really walked through this filter I have in my head that screams of preserving and protecting at all costs, always, especially regarding my children!

Oh.

What am I teaching my children?  To be bold and brave or just afraid?  To be generous and kind or guarded and cold?  

Maybe my children are teaching me. Oh Lord, forgive me.  I have so much to learn.

We quickly walked through the grocery store and bought a modest bag full of imperishable items for the stranger begging outside.  All the while, I was explaining to my daughter why we were buying certain things (thinking about his possible needs and the heat), and not just throwing in cartons of ice cream.

Can it ever be a waste to give food?  Really?

I don’t know his story, but I do know I can buy some food.  Does it matter if he is scamming somehow? Nope. Because in that moment I realized that there was so much more happening than just buying food for him and hopefully helping meet his need.  Our sight was changing, my children were learning, and I was learning most of all. Because if someone has to beg, regardless of their intentions, then they are indeed in need. Full stop.

So, with an excitement that left all her limbs jittery, my girlie carefully placed the items into the bag, buckled her belt and sat beaming with readiness to hand over the groceries to the man.

Am I ever this excited to serve another?  Such expectancy. No fear. Just wonder.

After a bit of searching, we found him leaving the parking lot on his bike, seemingly empty handed.  I pulled up, rolled down the windows and looked into his eyes for the first time. Need. My beautiful, brown skinned baby looked the middle aged white man right in the eyes as she smiled and said, “We got you some food.”  Her eyes…love.

As we drove away, I took a deep breath, and looked back at my girl who represented Jesus– to both the beggar and me– as she sat beaming.

“Mom!  That was awesome (her limbs all jittery with excitement again), it is just so amazing to get to help another, right?”

Yes baby.  Thanks for teaching mama today…

 

Love Wins

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I don’t remember the first person who told me about God.  I was invited to many churches and heard many things during the first 12 years of my life.  I didn’t doubt there was a God because I knew there was evil. For some, that is a stumbling block–the problem of evil–for me, it was proof.  If there was evil, but not ALL was evil then there MUST be the opposite and that opposite was God. He was just an idea until junior high; an idea that I wrestled with often.

My first memory of evil was when I was 4.  He was 15 years old and promised it would be “fun” but that I would get into big trouble if I told.  I would ride to school with that evil for years. There were so many moments of evil in that first decade of my life that I could never doubt its existence.  It crossed gender lines and age limits; it knew no bounds.

But God?  What about him?

If you had come to me and told me I was going to hell, I would have laughed and told you I was already there.  If you would have tried to explain to me that I was a sinner, I would have shaken my head and asked you to tell me something I didn’t already know.

When you live in the darkness you need not be reminded of its presence….you need to know that there is light.

Love.  Just as I was, right where I was, I needed love to wrap around me and promise to walk with me as it changed me.  And it DID change me…one bit at a time.

That is the Jesus I know–he meets you where you are, as you are, and calls you to himself.  People can represent him imperfectly, but they will never replace him. And so, my 7th grade year, several circled ‘round me -for a time- to represent him, his love.  Their love was beyond my understanding. Yet, I was SO hungry for it.

Love won me.

True love always wins, in the end–not the love offered by the world, that is temporary and conditional– but true love.  Love that gets down in the gutter where you live and raises you up, and then holds on, without end– THAT is the good news. That he loves us, and took it all upon himself to save us and he never, ever let’s go.

What are you known for?

The truth and love are not enemies, you don’t have to trade one for another, in my experience they go hand in hand.  After-all, wasn’t that what Jesus modeled?