She turned the corner and came through the oversized glass doors with the rest of them. Tall and slender, shoulders slumped a bit as if not to stand out too much with her statuesque figure. Being 17 is hard enough, but especially so when you’re noticeable and stand above the rest. She spent much of her first day of camp laughing, playing games and curled up on couches with friends. Legs bent up close to her body and arms hugging them in tightly, she laid her covered head upon her knees giggling with her friends as if she hadn’t a care in the world.
That night at service, she sang. Head draped with her black covering, and pinned tightly to her face, she closed her eyes and held her heart as she lifted up a salvation song.
This wasn’t her first camp with the protestant church. In fact she had been attending church for a while with her friends… Her family was aware, but didn’t know that with every word she heard, her heart fell harder and harder for Jesus.
Two Days Later:
She sat on the couch, yet again with feet tucked up closely and arms wrapping her knees, but sobs replaced the giggles. Tears streaming. She was caught in the cross fires of her deeply rooted religious upbringing and a compulsion for grace, only truly received through Jesus Christ. With friends on either side, they all sat late into the night talking through the ramifications of her decision to become a follower.
“You will lose your family”, they said.
“I already know”, she said.
“It’s not going to be easy”, they said.
“I still know I need Christ”, she said.
She knew the truth was worth the cost.
“Can you pray the words for me”, she asked.
“No. No I can’t. It has to be from your heart and from your mouth”, the other said.
And so she did. She prayed to the most Holy One, through the mediation of Christ alone, and she accepted the gift of salvation through faith in Him.
The next day:
Her hair was coarse. Cut shorter than I had anticipated. The sides pulled up and pinned back on each side with a bit of a drape. I watched her as her smile widened that morning. Freedom had already set in. As her burka fell, her burden lifted and she was set free; free indeed. She laughed, she danced, but most of all she couldn’t resist touching her hair. The tips were almost frayed by evening because she kept pulling and tugging and wiping them away all day, as if her fingers floated that direction without any thought.
She continued her week of retreat with an air of liberty, relishing in the new abandon and grace. I was in awe as I watched the Lord move.
Camp ended. We all returned home, and I questioned my euphoric recall. “Did all that really happen?”, I would ask myself.
A few days later I received this text.
“Pray for ____. She went home and told her family and they immediately started yelling at her calling her a dirty christian and telling her to come back to their families faith. She said no, and they beat her. She may also be sent back to her home country in north Africa to keep her away from ANY Christians. Pray for her protection.”
This is the insanity of God; that even a 17-year-old girl, beaten and abused by her own family would still believe. That our souls’ drive for grace and love would run so deep that in the midst of persecution we would still choose HIM.
As I read that text, I stood amidst my friends as they were talking about their endeavors of weight loss and upcoming crafting projects. The chatter behind me muted, my mind went straight to her; her fragile slender frame humped over and beaten, feeling so alone, all for the sake of Christ. The rest of the group I was with kept moving along with the day, and I suddenly was frozen, STUCK, only thinking about her, praying, in shock that these two worlds existed in my present time.
Woe to us, for we have our heads in the sand, church. Within our being we hold the spirit of such an enormous God, yet we would rather sit around in small groups pontificating over what counts as “sin”, who is the “elect” and if our sermon series graphic is “relevant”. We contentedly fill our days with Target, carpool and Facebook, all the while people are burned, beaten and slaughtered for their faith. After all of this, I asked myself, “At 17 would I have been so brave to step into faith with those ramifications? Would I have risked it all when finding a date to prom was the highest priority of my year when I was 17?”. And then I quickly fast forwarded my thoughts, and asked, “Would I risk it all today?”.
No one is qualified to measure another’s faith, but suddenly in comparison, my own seemed so very shallow. Sarah Bessey posted something the other day that put these last few weeks into perfect perspective, she said,
“Sometimes revelation is lovely and sweet and tender. Other times it’s like having all the windows broken in one big crash and the wind comes sweeping in.”
This is exactly how I have felt, not just with recent events but in the course of the past year. The scales continue to fall from my eyes, and the more the Lord reveals his nature, the more I realize how little of Him I understand. Even so, He is drawing me deeper still.
Will you pray for “her” today… and for the others like her. God is moving, in powerful and mighty ways, we have to trust and believe this truth, but we must pray for strength and bravery for our fellow believers across the oceans. We are all one church; the free church and the persecuted church are ONE… and with that belief we must not neglect to use our freedom “here”, to support and rally for those “there”.
We have three options:
The first being our obligation and commission from Christ himself as he said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)
I had a friend say to me once that she felt “ruffled”, like the Holy Spirit was doing something… I totally got it… but now, the “ruffled” part of me has turned into “knocked-over-by-a-gust-nado”…
What is my faith costing me? In this present reality, am I willing to reach deep and allow God to use all parts of my life, even when my greatest fears of rejection, security and safety are laid upon the altar for Him. Or, is the grip on my own life too tightly clasped?
The Lord is working Friends. Let’s be a part.