Wednesday, August 31, 2011

You are Good, You are Kind, You are Smart

It's a quote from the book (now movie), "The Help." The African American maid says it to a little white girl in her keep in Jackson, Mississippi. The words are precious. The reaction is, too. The child repeats the words in a sing-song, placing her chubby hands on her caretaker's face. "You are good. You are kind. You are smart." I've seen the movie twice now and am almost finished with the book. This morning, it occurred to me to ingrain the words into Neil, to help his self-esteem. He's 8 and was recently diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome, a form of autism. He struggles with social acceptance by his peers and occasionally is bullied. I thought that when I told him to repeat the words to me, he would react like the little girl in the movie. We sat in the shade of an ancient oak tree on the corner where we meet his school bus. "Neil," I said in the quiet of the morning, "I want you to repeat these words to me. Now look me in the eye." He put down the small toy with which he was playing in his lap and fixed his eyes on my face. "You are good." Neil immediately grabbed the top of his head with his arms and covered his ears. "Neil. Neil. You are kind." Neil ducked his head into his chest. "Neil, listen. Neil. You are smart." Neil shook his head violently and started to cry. "Neil, look at me. Look at me. Take your arms off of your head and look at me." It took me about 3 minutes to convince him to put his arms down and stare at me again. Tears covered his face. "Neil, don't you believe those three things?" He shook his head. "Has anyone told you differently?" He nodded. "Who?" He named children from school, one by one. "Neil, listen to me. They're lying. They are telling lies about you. You are not dumb. You are not stupid. You are not bad. You are not mean. You are good. You are kind. You are smart. You are good. You are kind. You are smart." He stared at me. He shook his head no again. "Do you know who also thinks you're good, kind and smart? God does. God loves you. You're his special boy. You are good. You are kind. You are smart. Don't believe people when they tell lies to you about you. Those are lies. Those are lies." As Neil got onto the school bus, my heart broke for my child. I had no idea that all of this time, he was hearing bad things about himself from others and was believing them -- actually believing them. It got me thinking ... how many of us believe lies about ourselves? How many of us don't fully pursue the love that God has to offer because we think we're not deserving of it? The truth is that we don't do anything to deserve God's love, but we are God's creation, God's children. And He created us to be good, to be kind, to have value -- to be loved. Why write this for the Christian Safehouse? Well, sometimes I think that we don't hear this enough, not nearly enough, actually. We believe lies from the Enemy of our souls. We internalize them. We don't seek out God as a result. We hide like Neil did, putting our hands over our heads and shaking our heads no, no, no, saying, "I'm not a person who has the capability of this calling, to become Christlike." The truth is that He makes us worthy. He makes us beautiful. He transforms us from the inside out, and He adores us. Can you hear Him? Do you hear Him telling you this? You are good. You are kind. You are smart. You are His. I intend on following the example in that book and telling Neil this every day until he believes it about himself. And now, I'm telling you, too.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Eternal Moment #5: Walking Around Wilmore

Conclusion of this story series ...

Present Day.
Wilmore, Kentucky.

They walk around Wilmore at all hours, some in the early morning, most at twilight: the widows on my street.

Neil and I have lived here for a year now, since my marriage ended, since the time that I first started reassembling the shattered eggshell of my life. And on that very first day that I moved in, they were at my door, sharing eternal moments with me.

Two are across the street. One is to the left. The other is two doors down on the right. All widows. All at the end of their days. And all, walking around Wilmore.

During their walks, they wind up at my front door or on my car port that I recently transformed into a summer porch. One wants to walk my dog. Another chooses to "sit a spell" in a second-hand rocker that she'd given me. A third brings me homemade potato salad. Another knocks at the door to find out when Neil will be home, because her grandson is coming to visit.

They ask about Neil's school. They ooh and ah at the cats and the dog. They compliment the floral patterns on the porch pillows and take a whiff of a candle sitting on the antique table by the front door. They ask me how my mother is doing.

And then, they ask about me.

You'd think the poking and prodding of personal questions would put me off, but it doesn't. Maybe it's in their eyes. All of them search my face with compassion. All of them pat my hand, just like my grandmothers did. All of them nod sympathetically. All of them offer a hug when they leave.

That they walk around this tiny town, spreading their own version of joy to anyone who needs it, continually amazes me. I constantly wonder to myself, "Do their joints ache? Are they tired, unsettled? Do they wonder when their eyes will close for the last time and whether today is the last for breath in their lungs? Are they worried ... about anything?"

Because, you see, none of them seem to be worried. None of them seem to have a care. All of them bring with them a settled peace, a transcendent joy, a quiet presence that drench my soul just like burned skin absorbs aloe.

"We're glad you moved here," one says to me.

"I watch Neil through my window when he's on his skateboard," another offers.

Then the questions change.

"Do you ever think you'll find love again? Do you want to?"

"Are you happy? Can I pray for you?"

And then statements follow.

"You're strong. You'll make it."

"You're a good mom."

"You have so much to offer."

As they walk away from my home to theirs, I wonder ... do they know how much they encourage? Are they aware that they offer others the gift of eternal moments?

See, an eternal moment is so much more than an exchange of a thought, an idea, a debate, a song, a question.

It's about the connection.

It's about one person saying to another, "You matter. You matter to me, and you matter to God. I have your back. How can I lift you up?"

How many eternal moments do you have in your life? I've outlined five in this blog series, but truthfully, they are too many to count. I know one thing: those who have given me the gift of eternal moments are never forgotten. I bring their faces to mind and recall the way they made me feel in the darkest of days.

They become Jesus to me. They bring to me His solace, presence & hope.

So until we hit the other side of eternity, this is the question:

Am I willing to share eternal moments with others?

Are you?