As a child and, even today, as an adult, I have very few friends. I was a loner as a child, mainly because other children did not play with me. They had good reason not to do so. My mother did not teach my sister and me about hygiene, and because she worked two jobs to support us, for my father had left us, she never seemed to have time to teach us how to wash our clothes or to wash them herself. So, naturally when you reach into the dirty clothes for something to wear to school, amidst clothes stained and smelly, you don’t engender closeness from other children.
Also, my teacher had to comb my hair every day, which made me different from the pretty girls with bows in their hair. And because of the body odor from me, my desk was separate from the other children, which made me feel ashamed and sad. It was so bad that the windows had to be opened. I compensated by trying to be the smartest person in the class, so my teacher would like me.
I was eight and nine years old, and I did what I needed to do to go to school, because learning and reading books have always sustained me. Books became my friends, and reading became my sanctuary. Even when we went to live with an aunt that next year, after my mother left us at her house, and I was clean and sweet smelling at last, I still felt an outcast, playing alone, to avoid the “looks” and taunts. I still wonder how children so young become so mean-spirited.
Then, at church one Sunday morning, sitting on the first pew, I saw a light come through the window and it seemed to surround me, and in that moment, I knew that Jesus and God were real, and that everything I had heard about Jesus’s life, death, and resurrection was true! I could not explain how I knew, but I just knew that I was loved and that I was not alone anymore. I was baptized a week later, but nothing actually felt changed in my life.
Yet, as I read my Bible as a child, always parts of the four gospels and the Psalms, especially Psalm 23, because the rest of the Bible seemed too hard for a child to understand, I always felt a presence that comforted me when I missed my mother and father. I have since comprehended that we do not have to understand and know everything about God for His presence to be with us; we just have to believe He is there. Take the wind, I cannot see it, but I can see the movement of the tree leaves, which lets me know the wind is real. The times when God has intervened in my life, I did not see him, but I saw the aftermath of His presence in my still being alive or having a need met that seemed impossible that assured me of His reality.
Even today, Isaiah 43: 1-2 reminds me, “Now this is what the Lord says—the one who created you, Jacob, and the one who formed you, Israel—“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; you are mine. I will be with you when you pass through the waters, and when you pass through the rivers, they will not overwhelm you. You will not be scorched, when you walk through the fire, and the flame will not burn you.'” Also, in Psalm 27:9-10 it says, “Do not hide your face from me; do not turn your servant away in anger. You have been my helper; do not leave me or abandon me, God of my salvation. Even if my father and mother abandon me, the Lord cares for me.”
The words of the Bible still comfort me and are a hiding place for me. As a child, to know I had a father and brother (and that’s the only way that as a child I could make sense of the relationships with the Father and His Son) who would never leave me alone when both my parents had abandoned my sister and me made life sweeter, if not always easier, although I missed my parents and wanted them to come back into our lives.
Today, I am still enamored that the light from heaven chose to shine on me. There were clean, less smelly children that He could have chosen to genuinely know that He and the Father were real. I thought I would have been the last person chosen to know Him, mainly because if your mother and father do not love you, how can other people love you, even God? But, in John 15:16, Jesus tells the disciples, says, “You didn’t choose me. I chose you.” I am still truly grateful that, like the lonely woman at the well, He saw that lonely little girl who had no friends and who felt so unlovable, and He chose me as one of His own! It’s truly amazing!
Father in Heaven,
After all these years, I am still amazed that You came into my life so wonderfully. I still believe, O God, that You are with me and will not leave me or forsake me. You have been faithful. Has life always been easy? No way! But, just knowing that I was not alone, and that You can see what others cannot see in our lives, I have been, and continue to be, comforted in times when the rivers of pain and cruelty and the fires of injustice and evil have seemed about to overwhelm me. I knew that if I waited patiently, You would come rescue me, and You did. I am Yours, the sheep of Your pasture, and I am still humbled by Your presence in our lives. Let Your presence be felt in Texas and Louisiana, O Lord! In Jesus’s Name, Amen.