Back hunched against the brick wall. Arms folded over his knees. Hood of a faded black coat pulled over his head, blocking out the blustering wind and perhaps something more.
A faint voice. A request I almost didn’t hear. I turned, my hand already on my car door handle. “I’m sorry?”
This time, his eyes spoke first. “Excuse me, ma’am, can you help me out with some change?”
A hesitation. My own questions rebounding off the silence between us. What will he do with the money if I give it to him? Squander it? Exacerbate the problems that got him in this quandary to begin with? Wouldn’t my charity just enable his dependency?
But those eyes.
A sigh. “Yes, just one moment.” I climbed into my car, dug through my purse, and extracted a five-dollar bill. The one someone had just given me a few days earlier. An unexpected gift I’d planned to use on a treat, Starbucks perhaps.
Still doubting the motives of his request, I left the young man on the sidewalk in front of 7-eleven with an unearned gift he’d likely waste before the night was over.
The key turned in my front door, sun on my back, my thoughts still churning. Am I really so different from him? So often hunkered down in the consequences of my failed choices. Hood of shame hiding my eyes. And when a bearer of hope passes by, I risk the pain of rejection and search for my voice to ask for something I know I don’t deserve. “Please, God, can you help me out? Again?”
I sometimes wonder what his response will be. A pause of reluctance? Doubts of my integrity? Questions of how I’ll steward an unearned gift of love and mercy? His hesitation wouldn’t be unwarranted. Not when my track record shows I don’t deserve anything different.
And yet, knowing these things, God doesn’t hesitate to meet me in my broken request–regardless of what I will or will not do with the gift. Because maybe love is less a matter of how it’s received, and more a matter of how it’s given. Unconditionally. Unearned. Unending.
I saw this kind of love a few weeks later.
It was baby dedication Sunday. A family with fourteen children. All with down syndrome. All adopted. All chosen.
There’s no way of knowing what thoughts are processing through these kids’ minds. What registers. What doesn’t. But during worship, these children danced, waved hands in the air, sang with noises the best they could. They got it.
And this loving father—tender, patient—swayed with little girls in his lap and smoothed out ruffled dresses. He danced with his grown son, who buried his head in his dad’s chest, clinging to the security he provided. Forehead to forehead, the father showered his love on his son in an act of worship all its own.
Then came time to mount the stage. For the father to pray over the two newest additions to their family. And during his prayer—which I’m fairly certain I sobbed through—he addressed his two girls, letting them know they’d been rescued from the unfit conditions in the orphanages and adopted into a home of acceptance. And though they’d been denied the unearned love of their natural parents, he offered this simple gift in exchange: “You are loved. You are mine.”
*Okay, still crying, days later*
And once again, the same question comes. Am I really so different from these children? Overlooked by the world. Abandoned in an orphanage of brokenness. Until a father rescued me. Until he held his arms around me, forehead to forehead, and whispered the words that forever redefined my identity:
“You are loved. You are mine.” Unearned. Freely given. Without condition. Without end.
And so are you. With Valentine’s Day around the corner, February can be a difficult month for some. I don’t know your story. I don’t know if people in your life have misused and misrepresented the meaning of love. But I pray these words will find the broken pieces in your spirit that others have left behind. And right here, right now, may these words restore that which has been lost:
You are chosen. You are not forgotten. You are pursued with an unrelenting love.
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