She squats on my front porch, her backbone protruding from her naked back. Her skirt is tattered and several sizes too small. Her small pile of belongings rests beside her: several bottle caps, an empty salt bag which she was licking as she came, and a jerry can lid. She can't be more than seven, maybe eight. I crouch next to her, trying to communicate. She seems unfazed by me, a strange white woman, and only glances at me, curious and unafraid, wondering why she has been brought here to my home.
I bring her a bowl of food and her whole face light up, as if food is an unexpected and unusual surprise. She begins methodically eating her bowl of beans and posho, stopping after each bite to lick her hand, front and back, like a cat cleaning itself. Now and then she looks up and scans the yard, her eyes frequently resting on my dog lying at her feet. She offers him a handful of food, tilting her head and clicking at him in her own language. He seems to understand and gratefully accepts her offering. She eats and eats and eats, full but unwilling to leave even a bite of food uneaten. I try to explain that I will give her a bowl to take the uneaten food with her, but she doesn't understand and keeps eating slowly, now bean by bean.
We bring a basin and soap, hoping to wash her and give her a clean set of clothes. Apparently bathing is a new thing to her. She touches the water and begins to scream and squeal, crawling back into a corner of my porch to crouch, cold and naked, like a cornered animal. She is hysterical, squealing and clicking at us, all goodwill forgotten in her fear of a bath. I keep my distance, not wanting to scare her more, but her attention span is like that of a one year old, and she is quickly distracted by her empty food bowl. She picks it up again and begins to lick it slowly until it looks unused and clean.
I come close to her again, talking softly, with a clean shirt and her own skirt. She is calm again, her almost-bath forgotten, and lets me dress her like a little child. She gathers her treasures, including her empty and clean food bowl, and runs to the gate, chattering happily in clicks and whistles. Her belly is full, and she is content, for today.
I hear her story from various people and compare their accounts, trying to find the truth. Some things are the same: she has been on the street for several years, an orphan no one wants to deal with. They say she's crazy, a child who eats poop and grunts, clicks and whistles to communicate. She seems more like a wild animal than a child, a feral, untamed animal. Everyone around knows who she is and even how she lives, but no one wants to help her. She is seen daily, but not really. Not with His eyes.
This week I have been thinking a lot about people, how we are created in the image of God and what that really means. God is good and beautiful and creative and love. But we seem to be just the opposite, broken and sinful and angry and selfish. More often than not these bad things are the only things we see in ourselves and in others. Our brokenness overshadows our beauty. We seem so incapable of seeing beauty that we even sometimes question whether God is really good. The broken sinfulness of our humanity hides the goodness that surrounds us, the goodness that God created in us and around us and for us.
But when we see with His eyes...
…the woman who pokes me with her nub of a hand, begging for money every single time I see her…
…the street boys who tell my little girls all the nasty things they want to do to them…
…the alcoholic mother who beats her children…
…the man whose leg wound makes my stomach turn…
…the homeless man with bad breath and stinky clothes…
…and the little orphaned and abandoned girl that everyone says is crazy...
They are all beautiful.
Because, get this, they are all created in the image of God. They are all created to be good and beautiful and creative and to love and be loved.
Francis Schaeffer wrote, people are "magnificent, even in ruin." And our job as followers of Christ is to find that magnificence, even in the brokenness that surrounds each one of us.
Because it's there. It may be hidden, but it's there.
May we see with the eyes of Jesus, who saw the crowds following Him not as a nuisance but as harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. May the eyes of our hearts be enlightened to see the beauty that surrounds us every day.
"Jesus the mender, You take me apart,
Put my heart in my throat and my eyes in my heart."
-Taylor Field, Mercy Streets
Kenneth and Kristi Williams
The Williams Family
Kenneth and Kristi
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