She was eleven years old. She had big brown eyes and wore her hair in puff-ball pigtails almost every day. At first glance, she looked like other girls at the summer program her age who loved listening to Justin Bieber and jumping rope. But something was different. When the other girls were turning ropes and jumping, she would run in when it wasn’t her turn and mess up whoever was jumping; she would rip the rope out of their hands. On her brother’s birthday, she wrote him a card that said she hoped he died. It wasn’t long before the other kids avoided her. And that was how she wanted it.
It wasn’t because she was a mean kid inside. It was the only way she knew how to protect herself.
While I never knew her full story when I taught her that summer, I could tell she had been hurt. She came from a broken and mixed up world where people let her down and abandoned her. So, the only way she thought she could protect herself was by being hateful and pushing people away.
She was not an easy kid to love.
But I was determined to get through to her. While her outward behavior was rude and unsettling, her inner heart was that of a broken and hurting young girl who desperately wanted someone to care about her.
By the end of a summer of hugging her when she pushed me away, encouraging her to play with us when she would rather mess up the game and consistently telling her how much we all loved her, she had transformed. She was able to play nicely with her peers and was happy and sociable. She even cried when I had to leave at the end of the summer. That was progress.
I can’t tell you five easy steps to heal the hurt and pain in this world. I can’t tell you the way to reach the lost. All I can point you to are the words of God found in 1 Peter 4:8, “Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.”
Love. It sounds simple, but it is an incredibly difficult, complex request. It doesn’t matter what color skin someone has, what job they have, how much money they have, what their reputation is or what kind of family they come from — God’s love is able to break down all those barriers to bring healing and hope from the hurt of this world. We are God’s hands and feet in a dark world. It is our job to love. It is our job to invest in the lives of those around us — in our family, our church, our community and the world. It’s not going to be easy, but it’s what we are commanded to do.
Who have you loved today?
Chelsea Flowers Anderson is a Marine Corps veteran and current student at Liberty University. She is passionate about helping kids in need through foster care and community outreach. She is the proud mom of daughter RJ.