I’ll never forget her face. It was our final day of ministry in Haiti, and one of our most exhausting ones yet. We rode in the back of trucks to the river, crossed in hand carved wooden boats, hiked goat trails through banana fields and woods, and finally collapsed-- hot and exhausted at the compound. That day we played like every other day. We painted nails, took selfies, passed out suckers and decorated smiling Haitian faces. Eventually, the village kids made their way back down the dirt paths towards home, and all that remained were the orphans cared for at the school. That’s when we met her. Rachel. She stood in the back of the crowd; watching-- taking it all in. She hid and didn’t accept any gifts. Watching her reject the advances from others, I thought maybe I could get through to her. I walked over and offered her a bottle of neon nail polish I had in my pocket. As I extended my hands towards her, she inched back, and I saw why. Hidden below her beautiful face, were two arms with fingerless nubs where there should’ve been hands. I immediately tried to hide my mistake and offered her suckers instead, but she refused. She continued to hide in her “shame”, and watched the excitement and laughter of the other kids around her. Her differences made her feel uninvited. Misunderstood. Sidelined.
She continued in silence, until we could get my husband. My Ethan, born with one hand that looked just like hers. When he approached, her shoulders squared up. She even smiled, and you know what? She reached out and accepted the gift he offered. She finally felt comfortable to sit at the table, to join in. She wasn’t alone, she belonged.
I think of our Jesus.
God yet man. Deity yet flesh. It would have been a whole lot more pleasant to find a way to offer us a pardon from His place of perfection. It would have been much easier to send grace down to Earth, keeping us at an arm’s length. The Royal King and His pauper subjects. But that’s not what He did is it? He became man. The Perfect literally put on flesh. He entered into our brokenness, allowed Himself to be touched with all of our feelings of grief and loneliness, sorrow and discomfort, and HE CAME. He didn’t offer nail polish to a fingerless people. He became like us. In the world but not of it. Man, still God. But He came. And in His skin He reached out and said “I know, me too.” And He gave us the gift of eternal escape. The gift of eternal communion. His act of “entering in” opened the ears of those who might not have felt worthy of His offer. Emmanuel, God with us.
For we have not a high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need. -Hebrew 4:15-16
Rachel was hesitant to accept love, until finally someone who understood her best, assured her she was invited to take the gift. She lived uninvited until she saw the communion of sameness and felt free to join in. That’s what our Jesus did for us. He came near enough to let us know that we aren’t alone. He walked our ground so that we can be confident that He has been where we are. He has cried tears so that He can better wipe ours. He has seen pain so that He can help us endure.
Ethan was so uncomfortable with all the attention this little meeting with Rachel created. So many eyes watching something brand new unfold. To him, it was just one person greeting another, he has known no other life. In fact, as we walked away from that orphanage that day, he was plagued with feelings of regret and helplessness. “All I did was give her a sucker and take a picture with her. I should’ve done more.” But I couldn't disagree more. He shared a similarity, and it opened her eyes. She changed. For maybe the first time, she was offered a gift, and she wasn’t ashamed to grab hold of it with her fingerless hands. A free gift was offered, love shown, and she didn’t hide in her feelings of embarrassment or unworthiness. She reached out and accepted. His “sameness” made her brave enough to approach. And I believe that to this day, that Polaroid we left her with, reminds her that she is invited, she is worthy of accepting Love, and she is seen. And most importantly, she is loved by Someone who was willing to be born into skin and bones so that she would never have to feel alone. A seed of hope was planted that day, and I am praying for a full harvest.
Our God is with us, EMMANUEL!
ARH Staff Writer
He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. -Isaiah 53:3-4
Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered. And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him. -Hebrews 5:8-9