I’ve only got a few minutes, and I really should be working on an essay for Bible, but in the last hour I’ve had an amazing epiphany. It’s something I’ve always known, but today, God hit me full in the face with the realization of His love.
It started when I read this blog post by my dear, dear friend, Meg, who is another veteran of the Kazembe Orphanage. Meg mentioned one of our kids, Elias.
As Elias was the first of the kids I ever met at the orphanage, it is fitting that I begin the slow progression towards explaining what Kazembe is with him. Within an hour of arriving in Kazembe, I had joined Meg and the children for “circle time,” which is structured exactly how it sounds – we all sit in a circle for the lesson. I don’t remember what the lesson was, but I do remember that Elias plopped himself in my lap (defying Meg’s rules, as I later learned) and began to wiggle. He swung his head around and languished in my arms. Anytime I would offer to let him sit by himself he would adamantly refuse and glue himself to me. I have a vivid memory of Meg leaning over and saying in a knowing voice, “Watch out for Elias. He’ll test you.”
Elias is, quite frankly, a brat. He’s trouble. He disobeys, he refuses to listen. He sulks and screams and kicks and cries when he’s rebuked. I can’t even count the hours I spent holding him in a body lock so he wouldn’t hurt himself, me, the other children, or any unfortunate furniture in the area. He has mastered what we call the “Zambian stare” – an ability to keep a blank face and stare right through you and past you, to the space beyond, just so you’ll know that he doesn’t care what you have to say. Elias is a handful.
And yet, I love this boy. I love him more than he could know or imagine. While he soaked my shirt sleeves with tears, I soaked my heart with prayers for him. He is not the kindest of the kinders (that’s what we call the kindergarteners), nor the funniest, nor the smartest, nor the strongest. There is nothing that should endear me to Elias except that he exists, and his name is Elias, and I love him simply for that.
Meg and I were talking about why Elias frustrates us so much. Why would he reject our advances of love so strongly? Why would he destroy the gifts given to him (at one point shredding a new stuffed animal in the yard with a pair of stolen scissors)? I have reached the conclusion (parents with children might verify this) that Elias behaves this way in an effort to test our love for him. How far will we go? How many times will we put him back on the naughty chair, and for how long? Will we still care for his pink eye? Will we still hug him, play with him? Where do we draw the line at too much?
Do I do this to God? To others? Do I push as hard as I can, skirt the edge of danger and sin, just to confirm that He loves me? Do I keep my mistakes and my sins to myself so that others won’t think less of me?
The answer is a resounding yes. I doubt that I’m the only one, but never has it been clearer to me than when I think of Elias.
And yet – God loves me. He has continued to bless me. He gives me so much, fills me with so much, and it never stops. He loved me so much that “he gave his one and only Son” for me. There is nothing I can do to make Him stop loving me, and there is nothing I can do to make Him start. He just does. Imagine that kind of love – it's phenomenal, it's unnatural, it's unreasonable, and it's not just for me – its for the entire world. Imagine a heart that big.
I’m so busy trying to be the best me I can be, trying to do as much as I can, trying to please God so much that I forget this. I forget the true reason I should “be good” in the first place. I spend so much time trying to please other people as well – trying to be the Sarah they want to see, trying to conform to what I think they want from me in an effort to make them happy – that I forget the real reason for those relationships. If it's not a relationship where I can mess up, then it's not one that I need to be in.
“Because if someone sees you at your worst and loves you more deeply in spite of it, then you know that love is true. You know you can trust them. You know it’s a Forever Love that will never fade with time or distance.”
- Meg McKechnie
Elias, I will never stop loving you – not because you have done anything to deserve it, but because I haven’t either.