|COME AS A CHILD
Pastor Stephen Muncherian
January 5, 1997
We’ve been thinking about our response to God’s love - how we share His love with others. As we move towards communion we’d like to also consider what God’s love means to all of us. Razmig shared about their experience with homeless people. I’d like to begin by sharing a story about a homeless person - a young runaway girl.
The other kids called her “The Girl in the Hood.”
She came to Covenant House in New York, a shelter for homeless kids - she came in on a frigid night, a large unsure girl wearing a huge red hood pulled over her head.
For her first 30 days at Covenant House, she never once took her hood off, never once showed her eyes. She wore the hood every minute in the morning, and every minute throughout the day. She even wore her hood to bed at night, pulling it tightly over her eyes as she drifted off to sleep. Despite all the efforts of the staff, she wouldn’t - she couldn’t - give away the one thing in life that helped her hide.
The staff learned that her name was Nancy. She was a runaway from North Carolina. She had been severely abused at home, by both of her parents, and was so terrified she bought a bus ticket and escaped to New York. She ended up at the Port Authority Terminal, all alone, wandering the streets for weeks until a policeman brought her to Covenant House. She was scared - hurt - and no one - no one - cared for her.
By hiding beneath her hood, Nancy, was able to hide the incredible feelings of insecurity that paralyzed her. Her hood became her “alter ego” - the only protector she knew - her around-the-clock security blanket. The only place in the world she felt safe.
From the beginning the staff decided to be extra patient with Nancy - trying to reach out to her in love. Conversations were very short. “Hi,” they would say. “Hi,” she would reply. “I’d love to talk to you when you’re ready.” “OK,” her hood would nod. “Later,” she’d say. Snippets of conversation here, a nod there. Her words, so few spoken, always barely a whisper, head and eyes down, escaping under the cover of her hood.
Finally, the love of the Covenant House staff got through.
Nancy’s transformation did not come overnight. But slowly, surely, she began to blossom under the light of the staff’s love - a beautiful child of God discovering an internal beauty she had never known. Nancy is now living with her cousin in North Carolina - she is moving forward with her life.
Nancy’s story is one of many - 1,000,000 plus homeless children sleeping on America’s streets - 300,000 involved as prostitutes. Kids - some not even in their teens - robbed of the innocence of childhood - running drugs for their parents - carrying guns as part of their “business” - abused kids - kids living in fear - beaten - betrayed - alone - unloved and unwanted - and most of all, desperate to find someone who cares.
Each child - each person - each of us needs to hear these words, “God cares.” “God loves you.”
We read in Mark 10, that Jesus, had entered the region of Judea, just beyond the Jordon river. From among the large crowds following Him, children were brought to Jesus so that He might lay His hands on them and pray.
The disciples rebuked the people - “Keep the kids away.” But, Jesus was indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me, and do not prevent them; for to such belongs the Kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the Kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” And Jesus gathered the children together, laid His hands on them and blessed them. (Mark 10:13-16)
We are told to come to Jesus as a child - without pretense - with nothing held back - with the innocence of a child - to experience the love of God for us.
But, it is very hard for us to come to Jesus as a child - with innocent trust.
Maybe our lives are not as severe as a homeless child in a shelter - innocence long since forgotten - but, in this world what example do we have of perfect love - compete - unfailing - pure love, that compels and is worthy of our trust? For what reason can we really trust God with our lives?
Imagine another child - lying in a manger - born in a stable amid the smells and filth of barnyard animals. An innocent child who in 33 short years of life would know the worst of mankind. A child born to die for us. This child is Jesus - God in the flesh. God who came - knowing our worst - dying for us - in love.
If I list all the reasons I feel I can trust God - foremost is that He loves me.
The Apostle John once wrote, “We need have no fear of someone who loves us perfectly; His perfect love for us eliminates all dread of what He may do to us. If we are afraid, it is for fear of what He might do to us, and shows that we are not fully convinced that He loves us.” (1 John 4:18)
It is sometimes hard to believe that God has such a love for us. Our experiences in life make it difficult to understand that God really does love us with a perfect love.
Someone has said, “The problem with life is it doesn’t give you time to practice - it just happens to you.” As we go through life we’re given baggage - accumulated wounds that hold us back from trust and innocent faith.
Remember the Nursery School rhyme? “Sticks and stones may break my bones. But, words can never hurt me.” Well, that’s a lie. Words wound feelings and attitudes - words from parents - a spouse - kids - those in the community or church - cut deep into our heart. Sometimes the words that we speak to ourselves cut even deeper. Maybe the abuse has been physical.
To be wounded - betrayed - by someone we look to for love and approval is the worst kind of pain. Painful experiences that damage our innocence and ability to trust. Sometimes the wounds are so deep that we pretend they’re not there or that we have everything under control - we put on hoods to hide under.
If we haven’t experienced perfect love - and how can we in this imperfect world? It’s hard to trust God when He says, “I love you - trust me with your life.”
And yet God loves us. Here is the communion table - the celebration of the trustworthiness of God’s love. Each of us in our own way has betrayed His love for us - and He still came - and He still loves us - and He asks us to trust Him.
Maybe this morning you’re wearing a hood - looking for protection. The walls are up and the wounds are protected. God wants to bring healing in your life: Spiritual healing - emotional healing - and He can and He will - if you will trust Him.
This morning you have an opportunity to let go of whatever holds you back from trusting Him fully - To say, “It’s yours." To come to Him and say, “I’m yours.” Don’t let fear rob you of God’s healing.
You might want to say a simple prayer to Him like, “God this hard. Help me to trust you. This is what I’m struggling with (and tell Him what it is). Help me to know your love in my life.”