Could I Love Her More?
She was riding her bike the day I met her. Her, a young girl of 7 or 8, was responsible for watching her little brother, perhaps 3. He had fallen and was hurt and I was nearby. I cleaned him up, put a colorful band-aid on him, and smiled at her. And then we became friends.
That little girl loved me, and, back then, I had the time and energy to devote to loving her.
I was innocent then. It was before I had babies of my own. Before I realized the mysterious ‘evils of the world’ are actually played out in peoples homes. In the homes of people I knew. There were probably many signs that I could have seen right away, had I known to look. But back then I didn’t know how to look. I only knew how to love.
We would go out for ice cream. We would go on nature walks. Braid her baby dolls hair. Play with her baby brother or play some childish game.
And slowly, ever so slowly, the reality of her home life came out.
She was a bed wetter. Something that a child should be supported and encouraged through, and yet for this girl she was only ever shamed for frequent accidents.
For this precious little one, a wet bed meant she got tossed into the dark, damp basement, alongside her peed on bedding, to spend the next night in solitude and terror. And then she was responsible for washing the sheets herself.
I helped her wash a few loads of her day old urinated sheets and I count it a great honor that she let me into that part of her world.
She spent a great deal of time as the guardian of her two younger brothers; herself but a young child in need of a loving and watchful eye.
And whether this fact is true or not I haven’t the slightest idea; she was convinced that her mother had murdered her father.
I don’t know if I loved her well. If I loved her enough. One day she was a part of my daily life and the next day she was gone. Her entire family vanished. It left an ache in my heart and I cried over her.
Her school had tried several times to intervene. They saw things at school and pulled her out of class and questioned her. She tried at first to cover up what was going on, but then she told them because she thought it would help. It didn’t help. Her momma got a pat on the wrist and then turned around and hissed in her daughter’s ear “If you tell anyone anything I ever do they’ll take me off to jail and blow my head off.” She told me her mommy had blown off her daddy’s head. And no matter what her mommy did to her, she did not want her head blown off. So she stopped talking to people. And all I could do was tell her I love her and have her spend nights with me. And she never wet the bed when she was with me. And then she disappeared.
I still ache for that little girl. Sometimes I wish I could go back, that it could happen all over again. I think now I could love her more richly. I could reach out to her mother and get her help so she could break the cycle.
When I pause to really consider could I love her more now I realize, with shame, that I actually couldn’t. Her taking me into the damp, dark basement to help her wash her urine stained sheets was her revealing her ugliest, most vulnerable being to me. She let me into that part of her world because I spent hours investing into other parts of her world.
I don’t invest much in loving others now.
Yes, my life looks different. I have my two young men to raise and equip to be passionate Christ followers. The time simply does not exist to spend an hour or two each day skipping rocks or jump ropes with neighbor children.
But I have become increasingly convicted of this need to purposely love children. Our own children. Our friends children. The children we see weekly at church. Or those playing throughout the neighborhood. The children in the grocery story. The children of the world.
If we don’t know children – or all we see are the smiling faces bravely put on as a front – then we need to sit down on the floor and simply be with them. Get to know a child. Ask questions. Show interest. Encourage strengths and encourage weaknesses to grow into strengths.
Love until you’re washing pee stained sheets. Til the ugly and the vulnerable part of them is shared.
And then cling to God for strength and wisdom. And love those little lives with a renewed passion; for you have been given a gift- been shown a sacred place. The inside of a hurting child. And hand in hand you can start scrubbing at the stains.
Two of my favorite books on this subject of loving children and encouraging them are by Wess Stafford, CEO of Compassion International. They are excellent, challenging books. Just a Minute; In the Heart of a Child One Minute Can Last Forever and Too Small to Ignore; Why the Least of These Matters Most. Your heart will break and the way you look at children will be changed after reading these books.