I meet with a little girl weekly for mentoring/tutoring, and she’s always been pretty standoffish when it comes to me. Until this week.
I knew something was wrong the moment she walked in the room. Her normally impish grin was just a grim line, and she wouldn’t look me in the eye. I asked her if she had anything exciting that had happened so far this week. “Yes,” she said. “You came to see me.” I felt the tears pricking my eyes but managed to keep them back.
A few minutes later, I asked her if she was excited about Thanksgiving. She shook her head no and started punching her sandwich with her tiny fist. When I pressed further, she told me that her daddy wouldn’t be there, and when I asked her why, she hung her head and said, “He’s in jail. For no reason.” That’s when it hit me: that aching for being useful and letting dark days be used for light. In an unexpected moment, that aching was going to be answered yet again.
I told her then that when I was a girl, my mommy went to jail, too. She looked up at me with those eyes and asked incredulously, “She did?” So we talked about it for awhile. She stopped punching her sandwich and started looking at me when she spoke. By the end of our lunch, I had finally received a grin. When she ran to the door to check if her class was leaving for recess, as she always does, she ran back and surprised me this time with a hug. That little tiny mite of a girl with too much in her heart for her scant eight years, the one who could barely sit still long enough to hear my instructions for her reading lesson, held on tight and wouldn’t let go for a long moment. I promised her that everything would be okay, and off she ran to the playground.
I’ve been praying ever since.
It’s funny how a little one’s words can make my past come rushing forward without warning. I’ve never had reason to tell that story until this week. How amazing that the Lord would redeem that particular memory after all these years. How amazing that He would choose to use it now, when I had all but forgotten about it.
I’m starting to understand why I was paired up with this sweet girl. Maybe it was just to have that one conversation. Maybe it was just to give that one hug. Maybe it was just to share in the misery of a sorrowful little kid with a hard story inside. Maybe.
Sometimes redemption takes awhile. It is worth the wait.