March 18, 2014

Journeys With Jesus

My phone whistled. A new text message had just come through. I don’t really have time for this, I thought. It was early Friday morning, and I was just sitting down to work on the Sabbath school lesson I was to teach the next day.

I glanced at my phone and read the message. Oh, it was from a friend from church. She seemed to be in crisis. I quickly picked up the phone and dialed. Yes, there was a serious situation with her extended family. She was heading out to be with them. We prayed, then she dropped the bombshell. “Sally’s* mom wants her home, so Sally will be leaving today.”

Had I heard right? Sally was a precious 13-year-old girl my friend and her husband had taken into their home a couple years ago while Sally’s mom took care of some things in her life. Sally had been attending our Adventist church school—I had even taught her piano lessons. Now her mom wanted her back home! I guess this was good news. But what about Sally? Was she to be shipped from one state to another? Would her mother keep her for good?

I headed out to our little school, hoping that Sally would still be there. The teacher met me in the classroom. “I’m sorry, Jill. Sally already came in and said her goodbyes. She left about 15 minutes ago.”

Disappointment flooded my heart. Oh, how I wanted to say goodbye to Sally! To give her a hug and tell her we loved her and would miss her!

Jumping into my car, I turned around and headed back into town, hoping my friend was still home. I breathed a sigh of relief when I saw her husband outside, packing the van. I knocked on the door. Sally stood in the middle of the kitchen floor, arms wrapped around her little dog.

“Oh, Sally, I just came by to see you before you go!” I tried to put on a happy face. “I’m sorry you have to leave, but happy you’re going to be with your mom.” I smiled at her and gave her a hug.

She had suffered much pain in her young life. Her dad was in jail, and she didn’t know him at all. My friend and her husband had stepped in at a critical point and had cared for this precious girl. What a gift! Suddenly I realized Sally was talking. Her words cut through all my attempts at light conversation.

“Is it my fault I’m going back to my mom’s?” Is that how she had internalized this? Disbelief must have shown on my face as I looked into her eyes. She repeated her question: “Jill, is it my fault?”

“Oh, sweetheart, of course it’s not your fault!” I reached out and squeezed her tightly. What could I say? Sometimes I wish words weren’t such inadequate things. We talked of her young friends and the many adults who loved her, and the God who would always love her and would never forsake her—no matter what.

I recently reread John 9, the story about the man born blind. The Pharisees tried to shift the guilt—it was the man’s fault. Definitely. Or was it his parents’? But Jesus set the record straight. God was going to be glorified. The name of Jesus would be uplifted. Somehow, in the midst of the great controversy, in the midst of the pain and suffering caused by sin, Jesus was going to win.

My friend came in, and we stood in the kitchen together, heads bowed, pleading for God to win in Sally’s life, as well.

* Not her real name.