She jerked her head back and forth unnaturally, not to the rhythm of the beat, but to the madness in her mind. On each trip backward, she opened her mouth wide and emitted a wail of nothingness, not anger, sadness, elation, or discouragement.
The girl was severely handicapped and accompanied by her tired grandmother and a young nephew. The embarrassed lady shushed and quieted her while the boy pushed her wheelchair and goaded her into wailing more loudly and more often. The trio shopped in the little pantry that distributed food to the needy of our county. It was hard to hide their presence.
The wheelchair was filthy as were her clothing. When her mouth gaped, it revealed teeth that were brown and black and sorely in need of care. Her eyes were unfocused and whatever they were looking for, it certainly was not next to the pork and beans on the back shelf. She sat at an odd angle in the wheelchair, her shoes were untied. The boy was not all that careful about the path on which he pushed, resulting in collisions with the shelves filled with laundry soap, lettuce, and lemons. Her mind did not appear capable of responding to conservation or even obvious details of her surroundings. She just did not understand.
We helped them through the pantry, but our feeble efforts were really not needed, as they moved quickly through the food available two days before Thanksgiving. The selection was a little different that day, as some holiday staples were added to the usual mix. Towards the end, the family struggled to move around other shoppers waiting to turn the corner, and weariness and impatience lined the face of the grandmother and the faces of the other patrons. We bagged her selection quickly, wished them all a Happy Thanksgiving and God's blessings and helped them on their way.
I don't know where they live, what they drive, or who they'll go home to. But I can tell you for certain, this young lady will not have a Happy Thanksgiving.
I wonder why God allows girls and families to suffer. As I've volunteered at this charity, I've talked to addicts from 18 to 75. I've helped the mentally ill and the criminally active. I've shared Jesus Christ with some and prayed with many. I wonder about those who are my age that must depend on charities for sustenance. I wonder.
Friends of mine are quick to counsel, explaining that God has a plan. It's easy to say that when bank accounts are full, homes are warm, and faces are friendly. It's not as if I don't agree, He does have a plan. But when I'm serving right in the middle of the mess, I wish his plan would be executed quickly and ferociously. I wonder and I wish.
There is one certainty that I never wonder about, and the awe and humility it gives me was startling that day. This girl with her stringy hair, feeble mind, lack of control, and filthy clothes will one day be transformed. It caused me to pause that day as I've never done before. Do you believe, as scripture tells us, in heaven, the least will be the greatest, and the greatest will be least? Do you believe that it truly is the kingdom upside down? Well, if you do, let me paint a picture for you then.
On the day when our Lord returns we'll see a wheelchair bound girl with no control, who wears someone else's discarded clothes unwashed, who cannot utter a sentence of her own, who drools incessantly, whose teeth rot in her mouth, who rarely has her hair brushed or combed, and who is shunned by almost everyone she meets. We'll see her all right. But in a wondrous instant, she will be radiant, clothed in splendor, with perfectly fitted white clothing, clean and bright. Her smile will be filled with straight white teeth and it will light up the heavens. She'll have a focused gaze on her Lord, her wails will be replaced with shouts of joy and songs of praise. Her mind will be clear and sharp and precise and full of knowledge. She'll be welcomed by all and loved by everyone. She'll not have to depend on anyone but God. She, finally, will be home. And that...is heaven.
Enjoy your Thanksgiving, look forward to what awaits you Christ-follower, but serve mightily while you're here, the lowly ones you meet will one day be great in the eyes of God.