They squealed as they tugged at my long, curly hair, ran their hands along my arms, and marveled at my pale skin and blue eyes. One of the young girls smiled and giggled as she leaned closer and whispered, “You’re beautiful.”
“You are beautiful as well!” I replied. Then, I looked at the other girls and said to each one, “And you. And you. And you. All of you are so beautiful!”
Most of the girls erupted in silly laughter, but the oldest grew quiet. She could not have been older than 14 but there seemed to be a certain understanding about her—a knowledge of the brokenness of the world and the weight of all the hurt and sorrow. She gave a half-hearted smile and said, “You are more beautiful.”
There are moments in this lifetime when our hearts break, knowing that we cannot wipe away all insecurities, mend all wounds, or calm all fears of a weary soul. There is a helplessness that often accompanies that knowledge—a helplessness of which I was keenly aware in that moment.
After a silent prayer, I responded, “My God says we are all beautiful. All fearfully and wonderfully made.” I watched in silence as a hush fell over the previously boisterous group. One of the girls reached out and touched the cross ring on my finger and whispered, “You are one of those Christians.” “Yes, I’m one of ‘those Christians,’” I chuckled to myself.
Praying for wisdom, patience, and grace to overflow from my heart, I responded. “I am. And I believe my God is the one true God who created each and every one of us to know him. The Bible, my holy book, says that he knows us and thinks of us more than we could begin to imagine because he loves us.” I smiled and looked at each girl as I had done before and said, “He loves you, and you, and you.”
One of the littlest girls, a precious child probably about the age of seven, stared up at me with beautiful, curious eyes. “The Christian God . . . loves Muslims?”
A joy and hope stirred inside of me, knowing these sweet girls were hearing something they had never heard before. “Oh, so much! My holy book says he is love. And he thinks of you and sees you . . . you are precious to him.”
This new knowledge settled heavily in the dusty, African haze as the girls continued to touch my skin and play with my hair, but much more quietly and thoughtfully than before. When it was time for me to leave and I was giving farewell hugs to several of them, the oldest girl took my hand and stared straight into my eyes and said, “When you pray to your God, do not forget about us.”
Oh, my heart.
“Do not forget about us.”
Do You See Me?
On another hot day when I was in our market, dodging motos, chickens, and goats under the blazing, West African sun, four little Muslim girls were standing quietly and watching me from afar. When I noticed them, I smiled and waved. They immediately burst into excited giggles and began waving eagerly, jumping to be seen over the busy streets. The memory evokes two emotions in my heart: complete love for these precious girls and a deep sadness upon realizing I was likely the only person to notice those girls that day.
The culture in which we serve is a very hard environment for women and girls. They hold much responsibility, yet receive precious little value.
Break Our Hearts With What Breaks Yours
There are countless people around the world who are confused, hurting, lost, and wearied. Maybe they are Muslims, listening to the call to prayer echoing through their city’s alleys and walls. Maybe they are Hindus, preparing an offering for one of their many gods who never seem truly satisfied. Maybe they are atheists or agnostics, wondering at a seemingly empty and purposeless life.
I imagine them whispering into the endless skies, desperate for answers from some far-off place as they cling to hope that someone hears their silent cries.
We should be deeply pained and burdened for those who do not know the God who sees; those whose hearts are stirred and ready to listen. And as I think more deeply on this, I must ask myself, do I see them? Do I see the lost, the lonely, and the broken around me? Do I see with heaven’s eyes?
Oh, for a grace and love that breaks our hearts for what breaks his.
Father, give us compassion so deep and sincere that we cannot sleep peacefully knowing there are aching souls longing for the God who sees. Open our eyes to see the hurt around us, and give us a willingness and desire to respond in grace and love. Break our hearts with what breaks yours. Help us see with heaven’s eyes.