She is ever so eager. Walking at nine months old, standing at the kitchen counter buttering her own piece of bread with a big sharp knife at 13 months. Thirsty for life, she believes every word of her Father:
Psalm 139: 13 – 14 (NIV)
For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
That same tenacity for life serves her well as her family moves to the other side of the world, four years old. Until, seven or eight years old at the time, another girl turns toward her. Looks her straight in the eyes and says: “Why don’t you just go back where you came from.” Cut. She soaks in the lie of her accuser: “You don’t belong.”
Many years later, I step foot in a church again, after fleeing God for more than twenty years. Perhaps He is calling me home. The gentle tenderness of His peace upon my grieving heart and my dying Mum begins to pierce the frightening idol I fled. My closest kiwi friend prays for a coming home. A miracle. The vicar preaches on Ephesians 3: 17 – 19 (NLT):
Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.
Only a couple of years after the first cutting words, the little girl boards a plane home to New Zealand. Even though she never audibly hears the words spoken they reverberate within her: “You are not one of us. Go home.” Every shrug, every eye roll, every sarcastic tone, every word of disapproval becomes a knife. She is on the outside looking in, even as friendships bloom. The little girl retreats more and more, scared of the zest for life within her: “Whatever you do. Don’t stand out.”
This frightened little girl returns, when God leads me to a new Dutch-speaking church. A church of 400+ members where I know nobody. Away from my safe community of English speakers. And yet He encourages me to rest in His truth (Deuteronomy 31: 8, NIV):
The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”
As I prepare to move, my new church starts MamaSamen (Moms Together). The perfect way for me to get to know other Moms in a quieter, less overwhelming setting. “Look at Me” He says, “You are Mine.”
Just when she starts adjusting to a new country, language, culture and school, the knife of human rejection cuts again. Her Mum shares her teacher’s words: “There is something wrong with her, she won’t cope as an adult.” Her mother shares it to reassure her of its untruth. But the insecure pre-teen she is, soaks it in: “There’s something wrong with me.”
And I hear those words again, as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder hits. I see and feel and hear my mother’s body breaking as the cancer ravages her body. Darkness covers me. “How can I best end my life.” But in one last desperate plea, I hurl the full force of my anger at Him, daring Him to show me life is worth the living.
I open my Bible to His promises (John 6: 35 – 40 MSG): “I’m holding you both tight. I’m not about to let you go. I will set you both before our Heavenly Father whole and complete.” There is nothing wrong with me. The accuser has been wrapping me in lies, but God cuts them in two: “Look at Me, you are Mine.”
Around the same time as the words of her teacher cut an even deeper wound, she tries to protect the one she loves dearly. But hearing his heart heave with pain, the hands she trusts most turn her away. “You’re all alone.”
After God feeds me with the Hope of His Word, the darkness doesn’t disappear. Rather, it intensifies. The little girl cries: “See, we’re all alone.” But into its depths, God pours Light.
Romans 8: 38 – 39 (NIV) on my fridge, I speak it into being, moment to moment:
For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
I don’t feel this love, but declare it. I listen to Kari Jobe’s Scripture-breathed I am not Alone on repeat and my eyes open to angels beckoning my mother homeward. “Look at Me, you are Mine.”
The hands she trusts most turning her away, grow a seed of distrust. Not just of humans, but of God. She beholds hands punishing outward behavior, rather than comforting the hurting heart beneath, and she lets the accuser tell her this is her God. So, she tries harder to be “good”. But, she can’t. She flees. More than twenty years long. “You don’t belong. You never will. You’re just not good enough for God.”
That shaking, frightened girl reappears, as darkness consumes me. I am on a waiting list to see a therapist and it seems as if the accuser sees his opportunity to kill me once and for all. I begin to once again believe that God is out to hurt me, as the enemy straps me into a hurtling roller-coaster of pain and fear. I scream: “Where are you, LORD,” finally turning my daring questions toward Him. He draws near, opening my eyes. I see and feel Him place me on his knee. He encourages me to let my anger out, in His arms.
“I’m angry too. Angry at the enemy’s destruction. The punishment inflicted upon the one you love. The ravages of cancer consuming and breaking your mother’s body. Kick, scream, throw a tantrum. It’s okay. I’m holding you and not about to let you go. I see it all. I’m working it all together for good. Trust me.”
I see my mother glowing with the radiance of heaven, our family holding hands amidst a multitude of worshippers before His throne, singing “Majesty, Worship His Majesty”, and the one I’d failed to protect, walking safely hand in hand with Jesus.
“Look at me, you are Mine.” Miracle.
I still hear and feel that little girl today. And I imagine you do too at times, the girl or boy of your past. But each time we do, He beckons us near: “Look at Me, My child. Not the enemy’s lies, not human brokenness, Me. You are Mine.”