Sometimes I look at the picture of this little girl and think about her future. Don’t her eyes just melt your heart? What wouldn’t you do for that little shy smile? I watched her grow up, so I know her story. She’s had a good life, and she’s done well for herself, but it hasn’t always been easy for her. You know how it is: She grows up and realizes the world isn’t quite what she thought it was. And looking at her picture sometimes, I want to keep her in her safe little world of innocence, keep her from the pain of disillusionment.
Because I feel helpless knowing that she will one day feel the pain of a broken heart. That she will make wrong choices that will lead down questionable paths and end in disappointment. I cringe knowing that one day, like so many other girls, she will take a knife to that soft, perfect skin just to watch the blood trickle down. Looking into those warm and trusting eyes, it tears me apart knowing that they will lose their sparkle one day — that they will have seen too much of the world to shine with naive expectation.
One day she will begin to question everything she ever believed in: Santa Claus. Prince Charming. God. Herself.
This little girl doesn’t know what it’s like to feel alone. But one day, she will. I look in her wide-eyed, innocent face and see her future, and I desperately want to shield her, to protect her, to tell her that there is an easier way.
But as I reach out my hand, I see that I am simply grasping at a mirror. And as I look deeply into the eyes of the woman I have become, I see that there wasn’t a better way. I took exactly the road I had to take to end up where I am, right now, standing here gazing at my reflection and looking back on the life I’ve lived.
I had to make stupid choices to gain wisdom. I had to be influenced and controlled before I could discover who I really was, and I had to hate myself before I knew what it meant to love myself. I had to doubt before I could believe, I had to be broken so that I could be made whole, and I had to experience the imprisonment of shame before I could truly raise my hands to God in freedom and victory. I had to live the life I’ve lived, every step of the way. I always did what I felt I had to do to get by, so I really couldn’t have made any other choices.
And realizing this, I realize that, as much as I may want it to be, my job is not to keep other girls from the same struggles I went through. I see the same look of excitement and wonder in their eyes, and I want to. Oh God, I want to.
Others, I see the dullness and numbness beginning to replace the sparkle as they learn how broken the world really is and how ugly life can be, and I want to heal them. Oh God, I want to.
But I can’t — it’s not my life to live. And I’m learning that as desperately as I want to keep them from experiencing pain, I have to love them enough to let them figure it out on their own.
I know that some of them will starve themselves to find acceptance. Some of them will cut themselves to feel again. Some will compromise themselves for affirmation. Some will experience loss and abandonment and depression. And the thought of it breaks my heart.
The best I can do is to equip them to live faithfully, to make the most of their lives, to find their own healing. The best I can do is walk alongside them on their journey and share the little I know about life. To let them make mistakes and to cry with them when they’re broken. To pray them through as they sort out who they are and why they’re here. To teach them enough of the Story so that they can faithfully improvise no matter what stage they’re on or what costume they’re wearing. And to be a faithful audience to the story they write.
This is my ministry.