This year, my daily morning prayer goes something like this: “I’m all yours, Jesus. I trust you. Fill me afresh Holy Spirit. Empower me to be love. Whatever, Papa God, whatever you desire today. Whomever you send to me today. Wherever you call me, I’ll go. Whatever you ask of me, I will give. Let me live not out of my soul-ish flesh, but out of the awakened spirit, utterly dependent upon You, my very life. I belong to you.”
It has taken me nearly 4o years to come to this place of surrender.
(Pause here and look at my previous post on an unexpected pregnancy I learned about after writing this post…God takes our prayers seriously!)
Many years I awoke with my fists clenched, ready for the fight or to create one. Many years I awoke with a plea for help to make it through another day caring for babes. Many years I awoke with hurling my anxieties upon my Papa God, wondering how we would eat that day and pay our rent that month. Many days I woke determined to change the world, come hell or high-water. Many days I awoke with what felt like the burden of a thousand souls on my back. Many days I awoke and needed to re-learn the Gospel all over again.
I have been dealt mercies upon mercies.
I remember well the first time I heard the anguished words of Rich Mullins in 1993 as he sang these lyrics to “Hold Me, Jesus.” I was 17, alone in my room when the words drifted out of my tape player and I wept:
Surrender don’t come natural to me
I’d rather fight You for something
I don’t really want
Than to take what You give that I need
And I’ve beat my head against so many walls
Now I’m falling down, I’m falling on my knees
And I wake up in the night and feel the dark
It’s so hot inside my soul
I swear there must be blisters on my heart
And this Salvation Army band
Is playing this hymn
And Your grace rings out so deep
It makes my resistance seem so thin
So hold me Jesus, ’cause I’m shaking like a leaf
You have been King of my glory
Won’t You be my Prince of Peace
It became my spiritual alma mater, this song. Twenty-two years later, I can hardly sing along without the pages of my days mentally opening before me and showing me how much he has become my Prince of Peace. And how surrender has finally set me free.
Free to say, “whatever my Jesus, whatever.” Open to not feel undone and overwhelmed when walking down the stairs this past Sunday night into my living room to find a young woman, holding her baby wrapped in blankets, shaking like a leaf and tears running down her face.
Larsen, my oldest son, and my husband had been driving back from the small town of Trinidad, through Puebla when my son spotted her. She was standing on a street corner, worry and confusion mixed into her tears. They stopped and made an inquiry. On impulse, they brought her home. I John 1: 3-7 had tugged on their hearts: “But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?” and “Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.” (Hebrews 13:16).
I rushed to her with motherly affection, wiped her tears, oohed over her baby, and led her to a comfortable chair. Her pants like thin pajamas and her tiny rubber shoes like from a dollar store, roughened callouses were pushing out the sides. We listened to her story, observing her intonations and word choice, watching her movements and expressions.
We are not naive to the fact that sob stories exist. But this young woman, she seemed different. Obviously young and indigenous, her understandings and logic were simple, almost from another time and definitely another place. She nursed her baby bare-breasted as the mothers from the villages do and spoke:
“I come a village deep in the hills of the Sierra Nevada (about 3 hours away, but an 8-hour bus ride). I think I am seventeen years old. Last year, I got pregnant. The boy left our town immediately when he found out. My parents kicked me out of the house, so I have lived with my aunt. When I gave birth, I did not know it, but three babies had grown in me! Two girls and a boy. This is my daughter Salome. I am named Salome too. My other two babies were born connected by the skin on their backs. They had to have surgery, but they lived. They are in a clinic near my village. They will always have bad scars. My village loaned me money for medical care, but I must pay it back very soon, or they will beat me and throw me in jail. My aunt got me tortilla-making tools so I can work to earn money, but they were taken as collateral. The doctor at the clinic told me I have to pay to get my babies out soon or he will call the DIF (child and family services in Mexico). I got so scared that I took all the money I had and got on a bus and came to Puebla. I started knocking on doors to look for work, maybe I can clean houses. Other girls I have heard do that here. One lady took me in for work. She asked me about my life, and I told her. She got distraught and called her friend who works for the DIF. Her friend came, and I had to repeat my story. She told me if I did not get back to my other babies by the next day, she would drive to the clinic and take my babies. She was so angry! When they were talking, I ran outside and got on a bus, any bus. It took me to the street corner where you saw me. I don’t know what to do. I have to go back to my town with the money, and I have to get my babies. I can still live with my aunt, but I have to be able to get my tortilla making supplies back so I can earn money. I don’t know what to do! I must get back to my town to my babies!”
This is her story, though her actual words were not as fluid. We wrote down the various possible spellings of her town to find it on a map, but she could not read or write to help us identify it. We welcomed her to sleep in our home for the night and talked about options of help we could offer the next day for long term benefit. We assured her she was safe with us. But, she was frantic to find a way back to her town to be sure she beat the DIF worker. We assured her this was probably an empty and cruel threat for many reasons, but she would hear none of it. She was young, her thinking was simplistic, and her fear evident.
My husband and I talked, and we prayed. We came up with a plan to help her. It was now midnight. Benjamin figured out bus routes to get her near her home destination. He called a taxi to get her to the station. I ran upstairs and got her a warm coat, stuffing the pockets with socks. We gave her all we could financially. Benjamin wrote a clear note attached to the gift so there would be no doubt where it came from.
As we waited for the taxi, I held her baby. We told her about the Gospel, we told her how precious she is and how loved by her Papa God are she and her children. She listened, wide-eyed, an occasional tear flowing down her brown face. We told her all we were doing for her was because of God’s love expressed to us. All those mercies…
The taxi came. I wrapped a little purse around her neck and showed her how to stuff it into her shirt for safety. Benjamin ran upstairs and got two audio bibles, giving her a quick lesson on their use. She stared at us, no words but relief falling down her face. I bent down into the taxi and kissed her baby’s head and her cheek, reminding her she is loved and valued.
The taxi left through our gate, and the two Salomes were gone.
We locked up our house, looked at the chair where she had sat — the same chair I had nursed my own babies in, in another time and place — and walked upstairs to bed.
It was as if Jesus had come to us.
“Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ “- Matthew 25: 44-45
Salome means “peace” in Hebrew.