A heart-breaking story, yet a hope that still reigns
The classroom is silent. Each nine year old girl has a look on her face not of judgment, condemnation, or even shock, but instead of concern and understanding. Their attention is held captive by the words of their fellow classmate, Bella*. Bella gives a short laugh, yet her eyes flicker with sadness. "I guess technically," Bella says, "I was abandoned too."
"We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed..." (2 Corinthians 4:8-9)
A Whole New Meaning
When I was deciding a name for this blog, I would have to admit that there was not a significant amount meaning in the name I chose. I searched for something that would grab the attention of readers, something poetic, something memorable. However, But Never Abandoned does carry some meaning: it is a small bite of my favorite verse in the bible found in 2 Corinthians (see above). However, the concept which envelopes the name of this blog has never struck me so profoundly as it this past Tuesday, as I stared in the face of a little girl who would claim that the words "never abandoned" are a sick lie.
The Story That Touched Her
Part of the afterschool program which we run for the children is what is referred to as "Word UP" - which is essentially a short bible lesson or teaching. The overarching theme that we have been exploring with all the children is the idea that God uses ordinary people to do extraordinary things for Him. Over the past two months, we have learned about various people who God has used to accomplish huge things for His purpose and glory. As leaders, we decided to introduce the children to people from the Bible, but also people living today in an attempt to destroy the idea that God was different then than He is now.
On this particular Tuesday, I was reinstating this theme to my girls by sharing the story of Lecrae, a Christian rapper. The girls listened intently as I shared how Lecrae was abandoned by his father as a child, became involved in drugs and gang life, yet handed his life over to Christ after surviving a serious car accident.
As always, I ended the time by asking the girls questions which challenge them to apply the lessons learned to their own lives. Folding my lesson plan and leaning forward, I asked the young girls who sat before me: "What are some bad things that have happened to you that have made you question why God would let it happen?"
The first couple of answers were typical, innocent nine year-old answers - things like, "One time I fell off a treadmill and hurt my head and I wondered why God would let this happen to me". But when I called on Bella, who sat quietly with her hand raised, she shocked me with a story that no nine year-old should ever have.
"Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord will personally go ahead of you. He will be with you; he will neither fail you nor abandon you" (Deuteronomy 31:8)
The Story That Broke Me
"I don't usually tell people this," Bella says maturely. "But I know that I can trust you guys". She proceeds to explain that until she was seven years old, she never really knew her father. She lived with her mother, and had minimal paternal influence. One day, however, when she was seven years old, her mother told her she was going to spend a night at her father's place.
"It was one night, so I packed one shirt, one pair of pants, one pair of socks, and one pair of clean underwear," Bella says with acute detail. The day after the sleepover at her father's, Bella says she packed her things and waited in the apartment for her mother to pick her up.
Her mother never came.
Her mother never came, and she did not hear from her for months. After several months, her mother finally called, informing Bella that she would be by the next day to pick her up.
Once again, Bella packed her things and waited.
Once again, her mother never came.
"I guess, technically, I was abandoned too."
She says all these things matter-of-factly, but through her eyes I can see her heart breaking.
And as I stared into the eyes of this precious girl, my heart broke. How could such a young child endure such pain, rejection, and heart break? She was only nine, yet her hope and her heart had been taken and smashed again and again, like a glass jar on bricks.
This series of circumstances repeated itself over the next few years. A vicious cycle of contentedness, renewed hope, expectancy, and crushing disappointment.
Yet, in spite of all this, Bella is easily the most well-behaved, mature child I have ever met; she speaks with the sophistication of an adult. Furthermore, in a culture where - in most cases - circumstance directly affects behavior, one would assume that Bella comes from a loving, happy home.
Yet Still, We Dare to Hope
And so my soul searches for something to offer this girl who is already accustomed to pain, and so I hold out the truth which now has more meaning than ever before.
"Bella...we are never abandoned by God."
At this, her lips turn up into a smile, a it is not sadness but hope which flickers in her eyes.
A hope that will disappoint her.
A God that will never abandon her.
But never abandoned.
*Name has been changed to protect identity