Unlike the others who had come to the meeting, she hung her head low and even though she hobbled forward for prayer, using a small homemade cane, she would not look him in the eye. She was a young woman who was born with a bent bone between her ankles and knees and you could see the shame that enveloped her.
My husband went on a 10-day evangelism trip to Tanzania last month and of all the people he met, she was the one who captivated his heart and prayers most. He and the others prayed for her and try as he might, he could not get her to look him in the eye. She was a broken and hurting soul. And in his heart he cried out to God to show him what he could do to show her how loved, valued, and precious she was in God’s eye.
“Walk her home.”
So after the meeting, he offered her his arm and with the help of a translator, she took it and slowly they made their way through the meeting and through the village to her home.
I don’t know how this young woman felt, being in the arm of the foreign guest speaker as the other villagers looked on … but I pray that a seed of hope and love was planted in her heart to help her see herself a bit more as our Heavenly Father sees her – wanted, accepted and treasured. Because before she was even in her mother’s womb, God saw her clothed in honor and dignity.
It’s what He meant for each and every one of us. But sin entered the world and we’ve lived in its rippling effects of shame and pain.
The story of this young woman and the shame she’s lived with speaks to my heart because she reminds me of myself and the place from where our Heavenly Father rescued me and continues to do so. My deformity and shame may not have been so obvious, but they were there in the deep crevices of my soul.
And like her, I’ve hung my head in shame.
Maybe you can relate … perhaps you too have lived through things that Father never meant for you to experience, done things you’ve regretted or heard things that should have never been uttered to or about you. But you have and you’ve been left with scars so deep that your heart has been numbed to its pain, and you think that no one knows and no one cares.
But your Heavenly Father sees you – all of you — and He offers you his arm. He is a kind, loving Father and more than anything He wants you to know deep in your heart that you are loved, deeply loved.
You were created for honor and not shame; dignity and not disgrace.
Years ago, when I first took His extended arm, I wept, overcome by His great love.
Back in Tanzania, the young woman and hubby make it to her one-room house and her caregivers invite them in. Within minutes they are asking for prayers for pain in their stomach and someone says that the young woman is pregnant. So they pray for the caregivers, and they are healed.
The young woman begins to look up, and she tells him that her bent legs cause pain all over her body and this is hard to live with. So once again they pray for her.
And the pain leaves.
The next evening, the young woman comes to the meeting, wearing a new dress. This time she looks up with a slight smile.
Yes, He is the kind, loving Father – the one who offers us the balm of Gilead – the blood shed of Christ — to heal not only our physical pain but the deep wounds in our hearts.
Even today, He extends His arm to all who will take it. And I — I choose to take it again. He is my Heavenly Father, the King of kings and I am His child, clothed in His dignity.