And take a breath. Ok, let's slow that down a bit. I drove to work Monday morning worshiping. Truly worshiping the Lord. And this is the song that as I belted it out I prayed the words from the depth of my soul:
Hosanna in the highest
Hosanna in the highest
Heal my heart and make it clean
Open up my eyes to the things unseen
Show me how to love like You, have loved me
Break my heart for what breaks Yours
Everything I am for Your kingdom's cause
As I walk from earth to eternity
Hosanna in the highest
It's taken me all week of processing Monday and asking the Lord to help me understand all the events that unfolded that day. For some reason I thought somehow they would all connect, that there'd be some big picture that just unfolded before me. But I don't think that is it at all. I drove home tonight from Bible study/small group and I was again asking the Lord to reveal more to me about Monday. And as I prayed Hosanna played in the background. Near the end of the song as the above lyrics were sung I felt as if the Holy Spirit was saying, "this is why, Danielle. This was your prayer and I answered it." Wow.
Heal My Heart and Make it Clean:
God doesn't heal things that aren't broken. My heart, it needs fixing. It's wounded and prideful and judgmental. As a kid, I lived with my mom in an apartment in a not so great section of Rochester. Every weekend my grandparents would come and pick me up and I would spend the weekend with them. I don't remember much from that time, because I was so little. But I know that I have a scar on my knee from when my mom left me with an incompetent babysitter that thought it'd be a good idea to shoot bottles with a b.b. gun while I ran loose, no more than three years old. There was time after time when she'd bring me to the city and her friend, Globetrotter, would show up in suburban Rochester, me in tow, giving me back to my grandparents because my mom would be on a drug binge and was unable to care for me. How easily I could have walked in the shoes of this little girl.
Lord, heal my heart from these wounds from when I was so young. Give me a gentle, loving, non-judgmental spirit toward those who are making the same choices that my mom made. I know I can't be a vessel of your love and peace when I spend my time judging and condemning them. Forgive me. And give a clean, pure heart. Amen.
Open Up My Eyes To The Things Unseen:
I drive to the Westside of Buffalo almost every day. I've heard about the things that go on. I've heard stories of filthy houses, abuse, neglect, bad parenting, drugs, gangs, etc. Logically, I know that there is spiritual warfare going on. Logically, I know that there is evil around me every day. But I don't truly believe it. That is what it comes down to. We act out of what we believe, not out of what we know. If I believed there was evil, I would pray more. I would pray for my employees more, pray for my customers, pray against the evil around me. But truth be told, I don't know that. Not enough. But then, one Monday afternoon I find a little girl, two years old, running down grant street wearing socks and carrying her shoes. Her purple corduroys were soaked with urine and poo. her pink shirt was wet from the rain and her face was dirty. She sobbed on the sidewalk as two young men tried to find out where she came from and whose she was. My instinct kicked in and I scooped her up and spoke tenderly to her. I knew this little girl had been neglected. I knew that when her urine soaked diaper soaked through my sweater, t-shirt and tank top that I was wearing. I knew that because no one had cared to wipe her mouth after she had drank something that made her lips and face sticky. I knew this because she was running the street alone and there was no adult that knew her in sight.
But it wasn't until a man came and told me he found the house she'd wandered out of. Someone had seen her come out of a house. After he'd gone over, pounded on the door and found it open, he saw another little girl who was around 4 years old. He came and got me. We went back. He pounded on the door full force and no one answered. No one moved. He pushed open the door and there I saw this beautiful little girl. All around her, all around this beautiful little girl was filth. Squalor. There was so much stuff on the floor that didn't even seem to be a path to walk. Pillows, clothes, garbage were all strewn about. And then I saw it. I saw a leg. And I took another slow step in the door and there she was. A woman. passed out on the couch. After uttering some words I don't remember she slowly stirred. She seemed to be confused. Very confused. And when I asked her if she was missing a little girl. She looked around confused and asked me what she looked like. I told her. She didn't even seem worried. She simply said, "Oh, yeah." I left and went back to the shop. It was almost 15 minutes before the woman came over. Luckily, the police officer had shown up first.
It was that piece of this experience that opened my eyes to the evil around me in the city of Buffalo. It was the confirmation from someone that the house I walked into was a drug and prostitute house. I had heard the words, heard the stories but it took connecting with a little girl and actually seeing her situation firsthand to truly grasp the spiritual evil, the battle that wages each and every day.
Lord, you've opened my eyes to some things unseen and it breaks my heart. I can't even imagine how your heart must break. Teach me to pray for the things I can't see and the things I don't fully understand. Lord, allow me to continue to see things the way that you do and to remember that there is a very real spiritual battle going on around me. Amen.
Show Me How To Love Like You Have Loved Me:
Jesus came and he healed, he loved, he invested. He provided, he served, he obeyed his Father and he sacrificed his life so that we could experience a personal relationship with God. How could I ever love like that? How could I ever love like God has loved me? The truth is, I can't. At least, not on my own strength. But if I allow the Lord to have hold of my heart and of my life then He can certainly love through me. And I believe that is what happened on Monday. The Lord reached out to me when I was broken and hurting. I had been abandoned and lonely and very much a like in many ways to a small child running aimlessly and lost through a city she doesn't know how to navigate. He protected me and rescued me. He gave me hope when I was hopeless and He spoke sweetly to me- words of truth. Words of life.
I picked up that little girl without really thinking. I spoke tenderly to her because she was scared and lost. And because that is what I knew because that is what God did to me. My employees gave her some food and something to drink and we changed her out of her dirty, wet clothes into a new outfit. Love is practical. Love is action. Monday, I learned a little more about loving like Jesus.
Lord, your love is amazing. Your love has set my heart free and Your love has transformed my life. Help me to be a vessel that You love people through. Give me the courage, the strength and the vulnerability to love others as you love them. Amen.
Break My Heart For What Breaks Yours:
This was the line that I belted out harder than any other as I drove to work. I prayed for this. And the Lord answered. What breaks God's heart? God is a Father. When His children hurt it breaks His heart. When the innocent are abused or neglected His heart breaks. And as I carried this little girl down the street, my heart broke. When I saw the conditions she had been in that day, my heart broke. And when I saw the lack of care from the woman who was supposed to be taking care of her, my heart broke. When I realized that her very mother had left her with this woman, who was apparently her "aunt", my heart broke. And I can't get this little girl out of my heart.
Lord, keep my heart tender to the things that happen in this world. And out of this brokenness remind me that you are sovereign, loving and good. Lord, change my heart to be more like yours and to walk through this life with a similar heart and mind as Jesus. I love that You care so deeply for your children. Help me to live selflessly and to be faithful to you. Amen.
Everything I Am For Your Kingdom's Cause:
I'm still working this one out. But I know that all that I am has little to do with me and a lot, well, everything, really, to do with Jesus. So, my life, my actions, my words, my pain, my past, my present and future can be used for God's glory. To share with others the fact that if this broken, sinful girl can find peace, love and redemption in God, anyone can. Because it's all about Jesus. It's why I can share my testimony with a hurting woman who has lost her son and know that the only reason that I am who I am is because of the Lord. I can honestly tell her that without Jesus I would still be broken and grieving and full of hopelessness. God has redeemed me. He's redeemed all that hurt in my past. And He wants to do the same with her.
Lord, remind me daily that this life is not about me. Remind me that I am not here to serve myself. I'm here to serve You. To bring You glory and that is something that just amazes me. Thank you that you have given your children a purpose. Thank you that You are a God of redemption and that Your word says that when we repent and turn to You there will be times of refreshing (Acts). Thank You that You have a plan and a purpose for my life and that in Isaiah it says that I am to be an oak of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of Your splendor. You are good. Amen.
Lots to process. The little girl was returned to the "aunt" and the officer said he'd have to report the incident to Child Protective Services. He said he was familiar with the house. And just as quickly as I swept the little girl into my arms she was gone. Back into the suffering that for a few moments she was out of.
The woman who had lost her son hugged me tightly before getting into her rental car. She clasped her hand over her heart and said for the first time in a while she had a sense of peace.
And the two boys that stole from my shop have not been back. And as much as I was angry with them, aren't they just as lost and hurting as anyone else? Don't they need someone to pray for them, too? Do I want to? No. Am I called to? Somehow, after the events of Monday I can't sweep it under the rug and chalk it up to coincidence that all three things happened on the same day. I've asked God to change my heart. In all honesty, between you and me, I'm resisting. I want to be mad. I want to be angry at them because there is true poverty and suffering and they felt the need to steal a cheap item that isn't a necessity. Loving the unlovable. I'm not quite there yet. But God is calling me deeper and after all of this I know that obedience brings blessing and that God loved me while I was very unlovable.