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Foundation Truth, Number 27 (Winter/Spring 2011) | Timeless Truths Publications

Tell What He’s Done for You

Where Trust Begins

I looked out our French doors into that watery cat eye and shuddered—I have never been one to take my animal’s afflictions lightly.

My sister’s hand brushed my shoulder as she whispered, “Remember, I’m taking care of him.” I knew she was trying her best. We had a little bottle of eye drops from the vet, but this cat was just not the sort that would let you hold him, much less get a drop in his eye. My sister had even tried holding liver over his head to get him to look up. The vet had said that if his eye didn’t get better he would likely go blind.

Through the day that eye followed me like a shadow—I just couldn’t trust, not my sister… or God.

That evening the cat was at the door again, and the eye was worse, much worse. Even my confident big sis was looking a little worried. I stared into the dilated pupil and inflamed red inner eye lid now covering half his eye. We couldn’t do much more for him and a trip to the vet wasn’t an option right now. I knew my only path of victory through this was trusting God, but it just seemed like somehow I couldn’t. I brushed away a couple of escaping tears and turned away.

As I crawled into bed my heart felt heavy and God seemed so far away. I knew that worrying wasn’t helping me or anybody else, but I couldn’t stop, at least not on my own. “God, I know You have given me this opportunity to develop trust,” I prayed. “I can’t learn to trust unless I have a problem that I can’t see my way through, and that is where I’m at…. Teach me how to give this problem to You….”

And something in me finally let go and rested in God, believing that He cared and would only permit what was best for me. He filled me with His peace—peace that reached far deeper than feelings and circumstances.

The next morning I looked out those doors without that shadow of fear… and found that God had already worked! The cat’s eye was very much better and continued to get better.

Several times after that his eye began to water again, but I determined to keep my trust in God, and He has never allowed that eye to get any worse.

I look back to that experience and smile a little. It seems small in comparison to many things God has taken me through since then, but I know I wouldn’t be where I am now except for the victory won then. God takes us one step at a time.

I doubt many of you struggle with your animal’s ailments, but for each of us there is usually something—something we feel like we can’t let go of and trust God with. God wants to lift all our burdens so we can find his peace in every problem. He really does care about you and everything that concerns you.

Unto the Least of These… and Me

The moment I stepped into the classroom I knew I wasn’t prepared. Not really. Yes, I had known that these kids were dysfunctional and needy of one-on-one attention. That had interested me and caused me to accept the position. Filling in for an aide wouldn’t be that hard. But the noises and sights that bombarded my senses were unlike anything I was prepared to deal with. Yes, I had seen disabilities like this before. But never gathered together in a classroom.

One instructor was wheeling a handicapped child to the next activity. Another aide smiled at me as she herded a couple children to their seats. Herding. Those uncomprehending eyes, the squeaks and constant humming did seem to belong more in a barnyard than in a classroom. I was prepared to teach and instruct intelligent humans. What was I doing here?

I joined the circle of chairs, coming to grips with the strangeness and oddity all around. A shriek startled me and I turned to look. There sat a child rubbing his hands across his face like a little chipmunk. The grin that dominated his face was not joyful or comprehending. Inwardly I shivered. Another girl broke off her droning long enough to smack her head forward onto the table. Her hair was as wild as her actions. An aide tried to cushion her self-affliction with a small pillow. Obviously she couldn’t be reasoned with. Just managed. I took a deep breath and tried to relax my nerves.

The teacher carried on with a remarkable attempt at normalcy. I was new, so it was time for introductions. One boy, rocking methodically back and forth, managed a nod. A little girl pulled her tongue in long enough to give me a slobbery smile and blurt out an indistinguishable name. Another child managed speech, but wouldn’t look up. More than half of the children didn’t speak at all. I looked about the circle, mentally attaching names to faces. Some were marked by their mental disorders, while others retained the beauty of the little child—innocent and uncomprehending.

Only one boy greeted me in a manner I was accustomed to. A shy smile and eye contact. It was like finding a friend in a foreign country. I scooted up my chair and began engaging in conversation. “How old are you?” He showed me on his fingers and returned the question. I showed him on mine. The tension was broken and we began to color together, smiling and chatting. I might survive this day after all.

And so I did. It was mostly survival at first, since everything was so new. The ones you thought you could expect the most from turned out to be the least predictable. The dark-eyed beauty of the class came up to me and touched my arm. “New lady,” she murmured, nodding her head excitedly. “New lady.” I didn’t understand the assistant’s warning until it was too late. In less than five seconds she turned into a little tornado and upset the fish tank.

At recess they gave me charge of the chipmunk child. The teacher had told me he was easy. “He’ll touch your hand if he wants something,” she said. “He likes the swing,” an aide added. And swing he did—for the whole twenty minutes. So what should I do? One of the class came up and pointed to her untied shoes. Finally, an opportunity to connect! “You need help?” She nodded and smiled. I was bending down to help her when I heard an assistant scold, “You don’t need help! You know better than to untie your shoes.” Aside to me, she added, “She’s just trying to get attention.” I blinked in surprise. I hadn’t guessed they would try manipulation. Obviously I had much to learn.

I was to do a lot more blinking before I would begin to understand these children and their needs. But learn I slowly did. That first day I watched two faces disappear from sight as they stared out of the bus windows. A deceptively beautiful girl, a mute gazing boy. Something in those lost, forlorn eyes touched my heart. I wondered if I would ever see them again.

Before the month was out, I was back. This time I knew what I was asking for. I also knew it was where God wanted me to be.

Nine months have passed since I entered their world for the first time. I am no longer surprised by the noises and sights that once bombarded my senses. But familiarity has given me more than steady nerves. It has opened my heart to the real people hiding behind those masks of ignorance. Real people with real needs. And I began to love them.

I will readily admit that I was frustrated at first. I had wanted to be useful, to solve problems, to make a difference. But here I was helpless. Couldn’t we do more than babysit these children, locked in their toddler minds? But that’s all that this classroom seemed to be.

I think my biggest battle was myself. I expected more. I wanted to see progress. It was trying on patience to sit with an unresponsive child and give instructions to deaf ears. After spending a half hour coloring and matching shapes with limp or resistant hands, I wondered what the point was. I was handicapped and resented it. And when I considered a child, at ten years old, whose only communication was the a touch of his hand, I didn’t want to sit back and do nothing. Isn’t there a way to break through to the person trapped inside, a language you can teach them, something more we can do? The other aides smiled at my frustration. “It took a long time to get here,” they said, and they seemed pleased with the results.

It was a school of humbling for me. But the way down wasn’t all giving up. I gained much as well. As I became a regular sub for the classroom, I began to see and hear with more than my physical senses. I began to see that God had a different perspective on these human handicaps that seemed to so distasteful and limiting. Weakness didn’t bother Him. He valued dependence and patience. Besides, He hadn’t sent me there to change their situation. My job was to love them as they were, as the people they could be. By stacking blocks over and over? By giving smiles and encouragement for the most feeble efforts? He talked to me about how much His love had condescended to me. And the more I listened, the more I realized that this was the reason I was here. To see myself.

It wasn’t until I found myself stationed with the class for four weeks that I began to see the method in all the madness. “Let me show you the clipboards,” the teacher said. And there it all was. The pages of fine grid-work that marked off an education so exacting that my teaching mind was sent reeling. “When you have extra time, you can fill these in,” she said. I read the objectives. Behavior. Independence. Interactions. Every aspect of their “daycare” environment had been considered and their individual goals had been laid out. Did they ask for help when they needed it? How many times? Was the instruction given verbally, gestured, modeled, or physically assisted? I suddenly felt ashamed of my attitude and looked around at the staff with new appreciation. They were working for something, and they knew it. I found myself pleased to be identified with them, to have a place in a school full of growing minds with “the least of these.”

With my eyes opened anew I began to delight in their little hints of progress. Now I could join with comprehension in the elaborate praise and clapping afforded a simple effort to follow directions. Now I could understand the firmness of their scolding over untied shoes. After all, they knew what this child could do if they would. To refuse to try was to ask for their own defeat. I, too, found fondness in my heart for the very oddities of behavior that had once shaken me. I was realizing the truth of their lovability and potential. Once I had despaired of finding it here.

Today I enter that classroom with new comprehension. I find in this motley crew, this daycare of the lost causes of humanity, something much more. It is the painstaking and poured-forth effort to see progress in the seeming impossible. I’ve added a few of my own marks to those clipboards now. I respect those intricate records of successes and failures, marching so imperceptibly toward the goal. I respect even more the moment-by-moment investment to make that goal possible. What is the goal? Not of good grades or even a return to normalcy. A goal so simplistic as to seem a mockery of intelligence to many. A goal so great as to require the patience and determination unequaled by an Olympic coach. The goal of being their best with who they are. And as I stand in the midst of the least of these, I find myself—in God’s eyes.

Uncomprehending? Certainly that was I. Limited? Yes, and distant from a grace that was so ready to assist me. Truly the picture is an accurate one. How often we think we know, only to find that we really knew nothing at all. How often we are trapped by our own selves, yet unwilling to seek help. But it was to such headstrong ignorance that our God sent His Son. He knew we couldn’t comprehend His power and love in the realms of glory. It was a distance our sin-bound souls could not span. So He came down to our level and loved us as we are—in our vain repetitions, our self-destruction, our unlovable ways.

Why such condescension? Because He saw our potential and knew that we could be redeemed. Not because of our own worth, but because of Who He was, He offered us hope. Hope that could only be grasped if we would first believe in Him and receive Him into our hearts. Does our frail understanding take it in? The all-wise Omnipotence, Orchestrator of the universe, offers Himself to a humanity that would just as soon erase His memory from the earth. To give us His life that we might live through Him. Of course, we could not comprehend it. Certainly “eye hath not seen nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him”* (1 Corinthians 2:9)!

He knew what He was asking for. And He was prepared to teach us His ways, faithfully, patiently, over and over, until the light dawned in our eyes at last and we could move on. But His love was tough. It determinedly asked us to go where we could not alone step—outside of ourselves, our inward trap, our self-absorption—and held our hand. We could not do more than allow that love to work in us, or refuse it. But that was all He asked—that we be willing to trust, to respond, to make an effort. And then, what delight, what applause when we chose willingness! Even if it was simply to ask—to make the connection—which, after all, is the life-line to life.

What of His judgments? Surely He could never tolerate our reversions to self-destruction. With firm disapproval He opposed our stubbornness and self-pity at every turn. But the power of choice He leaves to us yet—making every effort in the meanwhile to show us how worthy the choice for life is. He settles for nothing less than our release, though it be one painstaking baby step at a time. And while our restoration fills all His plans, He waits for us, desires us, loves us…. Was there ever a heroic love so obstinately miscomprehended as our God’s has been?

Yes, the picture of my ignorance and His patient, persistent investing looms great before me. Do I begin to comprehend? Just enough to reach out my hand. To be willing to be directed. To humble myself to walk with my God. This child whose conversation is a jabber of recorded ideas, who is just as likely to self-destruction as to hurt another, is me. That child who rocks in frustration at the smallest disturbance, whose greatest effort is to get still enough to trust, is me. And he whose language is no more than grunts and gestures, whose feebleness requires the most aid, but in whose hand is the power to will or to reject, is me. How much I need One that will love me at all costs and direct my steps in the way of life everlasting!

The least of these. That is me. That is you. Is it revolting? It is reality. To embrace it is to lay hold of the key of our redemption. Are we headed for eternal insanity, or for the dawning of supernal light? “Now we see through a glass, darkly”* (1 Corinthians 13:12) is a redeeming acknowledgment if we can accompany it with this greater: “Behold, what manner of love the Father has bestowed upon us that we should be called the sons of God!”* (1 John 3:1) All I am today is because He loved me and wanted me. And all my hope of the future is because He is able to make me what I ought to be.