For most of my life I’ve stayed in the lines. Taken the easy route. Enjoyed the comfort zone. Focused on me. I’ve modeled a fake representation of a shallow Gospel, which has looked nothing like Jesus.
Many of us call ourselves “Christians”—but we don’t look or act anything like Christ. I know; I’ve been one of those people.
Recently I met a young teen who’s had a hard life and has been forced to make even harder decisions. You’ll never meet a prettier girl. Big green eyes. Her skin is a perfect brown like from a box of crayons. She doesn’t know her dad. And her mom works two jobs and drinks too much. So she lives with a friend from school.
Imagine some of the worst places and sights and disappointments–these would paint a pretty good visual of what this child has seen in her young life.
Call it pity or providence, but there was something about this girl that made me want to help her forget about all the bad stuff she’s seen…..and see something that looked more like hope. Something that looked more like Jesus.
Teens are tricky. It’s hard to know how to engage. So when she said, “Hey, can I text you sometime?” I said, “Sure.” And I committed an unwritten cardinal sin and gave this stranger my personal cell phone number. To my surprise, she uses it regularly.
At first, we talked about her swollen belly and feeling the baby move for the first time. We talked broken dreams and broken hearts. The lack of resources and money. The lack of support and love. And logistics like WIC and Medicaid. We talked about decisions. Fears. We talked about her wanting more for the baby than she ever had. We talked about raising the baby and being a mama when she’s never really even had a mama herself.
We talked about adoption and abortion. When she asked my opinion, I gave an honest answer. I told her to keep it. Or to give it. She said she couldn’t. I told her we’d help her. She said we probably wouldn’t.
And then I didn’t hear from her for weeks.
The next time she called, she thought I wouldn’t answer. But I did.
She thought I would judge her. But I didn’t.
She thought I’d be mad at her. But I wasn’t.
She doesn’t have a swollen belly anymore. And there’s no baby to feel either. So now we talk about math tests and friends. She hates History and she loves English. We talk about how the other girls whisper when she’s around. We talk about how she cries herself to sleep most nights. We talk about forgiving others and forgiving ourselves. We talk about guilt and shame and hope and faith. We don’t talk much about the future. Because I’m just praying she makes it through today.
It’s easy for me to say what I would have done. How I would’ve chosen better.
But the trouble with walking in someone else’s shoes is that, most of the time, they don’t fit.
I don’t know why I’m telling you this story except I can’t get her off my mind. Her story is many girls’ stories. She’s a dime a dozen in this crazy world of broken eggs. And I just keep thinking…… what if we spent less time trying to fit into somebody’s else shoes and spent more time trying to fit into their actual lives? What if we spent less time trying to fix people and more time figuring out what they need most?
What if we spent less time bearing Christ’s name and more time bearing His Cross?
She sent me a message this week and it said “ty.” I asked for what? She said, “Being there and being real. Love you.”
I’m outside the lines here. In the deep end of the Gospel now. It’s scary. And yet God tells me it’s the only place we should ever be.
No faking it. Because even a 15-year-old can tell the difference.
Her birthday is this weekend. Ironically, she’s getting a new pair of shoes. I can’t wear hers and she can’t wear mine, but we can link arms and walk whatever path in real and tangible ways……together.
When it seems impossible to make a mark. Write down your phone number.
When it seems like there are too many to help, start with one.
Be there. Be real.