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I was on a mission from God.
I woke up at our daughter’s home as I have for the last four weeks and headed out around 5:50am for my walk. Within 100 feet of the house, I noticed a little girl walking along the sidewalk–alone. She looked to be about seven years old and shouldered a backpack that was just about half her size. She also grasped to her chest a big bundle of what looked like a colorful blanket.
When she saw me, she stopped, tried to hunker down behind a car, and stared at me cautiously. I asked, “Are you okay?”
She nodded and walked on, heading out of my daughter’s housing development. Wondering what I should do and not having seen which house she came out of, I continued on my walk. I always circle the small development before I head up the hill out of the homes.
About five minutes later, I headed up the incline, still wondering about the little girl. I couldn’t see far because the sidewalk twisted and turned, but within a few minutes, a white van came down the hill and stopped. A man looked out at me through the window and said, “There’s a little girl walking up the street. I asked her if she was alright but I didn’t think I should do anything.”
I replied that I knew about her and would try to catch up with her. It wasn’t until I reached the top of the hill that I could see her, heading for the busy street. I followed her across the street and praying for wisdom, while directly behind her, I spoke up. “Hi there. Do you know my grandson, Raffi?”
Expecting her to flee, I was grateful when she stopped and turned around, shaking her head “no.” I sat down on the parking lot curb trying not to intimidate her and asked, “What are you doing?”
“I’m going home from a sleep over.” I was surprised she answered my questions and I found out she was nine years old but was very petite for her age. She knew her address although I didn’t know where the street was. I asked her if something bad had happened and she shook her head no. I told her I would follow her to keep her safe and tried to assure her I was a safe person.
With her big dark eyes staring at me, I wondered if I should call the police. But I felt commissioned to do what I could and certainly her house must not be too far for her to think she could trek home.
Wrong! We walked for at least a mile and a half up a very steep hill along a busy street. I trailed behind her feeling like I would attack anyone who tried to pick her up. I had my mission and she would be safe. I kept at about 30 paces behind her. Several times, the things she’d wrapped in her blanket dropped out and I called out to tell her. She picked them up, stuffing them back into the folds of the blanket. One time, she stopped, turned around, and called to me, “You don’t need to follow me.”
I replied, “Yes, I do.” I pulled my cell phone out of my pocket and held it up. “You can call home if you want.” She refused, shaking her black cropped hair. Then she trekked on. I wondered if she might actually be running away. Did she really know where she was going?
Fortunately, no car stopped to try to pick her up and no pedestrian gave her much attention. A little bit of fear hit me when I wondered if I might be accused of stalking her or my motives being questioned. But I wasn’t going to give up.
I felt so sorry for her. Her chock-full backpack drooped off her shoulders and finally she had to rearrange her blanket. All the different clothes stuffed in it were falling out. Like a miniature version of a bag lady, she stopped and spread out the blanket on a block wall fence and rearranged the bundle. Then she started the climb again.
Finally, a woman ran across the street toward the little girl, calling, “Thea! What are you doing? Why are you carrying your sleeping bag?”
Who I assumed was the little girl’s mother looked back at me and asked, “Did you follow her from down there?”
“Yes,” I called. She thanked me and turned to walk alongside her daughter. At least I hoped it was her daughter. Questions still filled my mind. Should I approach and make sure? How would I know? Why would the little girl leave the host house? Had something bad happened? Would this mother investigate? We weren’t near any houses at that point, so I deduced the host family had called the mother and she had started out looking for her daughter. I turned to walk away but then stopped and looked back at the little girl and the woman. Only then did the mother reach out to take the sleeping bag.
As I headed down the hill, I was glad I had fulfilled the mission. I knew the little girl had been frightened of me but I felt that was worth the safety I provided.
The little girl, Thea, didn’t know I was a safe person–I can understand that. To allow me to help carry her blanket or to use my cell phone may have felt like she was no longer controlling her own life. Maybe she feared I would snatch her and carry her away. It was obvious Thea had a plan and no one was going to thwart it.
But oh, how I wanted to help. And oh, how the Holy Spirit wants to help us. He protects us as we trudge along but often we refuse His help. Like the little girl, we trudge along carrying our burden of sins fearful of what it might mean to ask forgiveness and allow the Spirit to take over. At one point, I asked the little girl if I could help her with her bundle, but she refused. I respected her decision and so does the Spirit. He says, “OK, go ahead and carry that load but it sure would be a relief for you if you would allow me to help.”
“Give me your bitterness and you won’t have to carry the burden of anger. You’ll be released to live in love.”
“Give me your discontent and you won’t have to carry the burden of unhappiness. You’ll be released to live in joy.”
“Give me your critical spirit and you won’t have to carry the burden of selfishness. You’ll be released to live in gratitude.”
“Give me your worry and you won’t have to carry the burden of fear. You’ll be released to live in peace.”
And the Spirit calls out, “Here’s the direct line to the Father. Call Him. Call upon Him. I’m here as His Spirit to direct you to Him.”
As I continued my walk down the hill, I felt like I’d accomplished a wonderful deed. I’d delivered the little girl to her mother. Tears suddenly crested in my eyes as I thought, “Someday the Holy Spirit will deliver me personally to the Father.” I had such a sense of the Holy Spirit’s role as our guide and protector, our comforter and our accompaniment, walking along with us, helping us to abide in the Father. I was challenged to trust His loving presence even more.
But often like Thea, I think I have a plan and to do anything different seems like I’m out of control. Yet the Spirit knows better. Obeying Him is not losing control; it’s gaining the help of the Almighty God of the Universe. Thea didn’t know I was safe but you and I can be assured that the Spirit is safe. We can trust Him. He wants only our best. Will we hand our burdens over to Him?
I reflected on the reunion between mother and daughter. I felt sad. Why didn’t the mother fall to her knees and wrap her arms around her daughter? Her daughter was found! Why didn’t she lift her high and twirl her around in joy? Her daughter was safe! Why didn’t she gather up the sleeping bag into her own arms and lift the heavy backpack off the little girl’s tired shoulders? Her daughter was weary!
What a fantastic view we have of how our Heavenly Father would have reacted if He’d found us. The story of the Prodigal Son shows our Father running to us, scooping us up, throwing a party, and providing tasty food. If we were Thea, I think He would have dropped to His knees, wrapped his arms around us, lifted us high, twirled us around, and taken the burdens out of our arms and off our shoulders.
My mission watching over Thea is done but the impact upon me lingers. Will you join me in giving our burdens over to the Lord and allow Him to guide us?