After the 3 hour bus ride, I made my way up through the dusty and hilly streets in the foothills of Carabayllo for one last visit. Two years ago, my heart was angry at this young lady, angry at her wantonness, and angry at my foster son’s inability to resist her. Of course he wasn’t the problem… she was. If only she weren’t so easy, or so aggressive, he would be able to see clearer. What I wasn’t seeing (or wanting to see), was that she was just as broken as he was… but she had no warning voice reining her in. So he struggled, and she won her prize – a young man who turned his back on God to be with her, and in so doing, turned his back on his conscience and gave up the struggle to deny himself anything. He crumbled in the face of the temptation of turning back to drugs, of life on the streets… and of other girls. 5 months after winning her “prize,” she was pregnant, and the father of their baby was already with another girl, working sporadically, and treating her like something to be used and discarded. “Enlarge your heart,” God had spoken to me way back when she was relentlessly pursuing him… and vice versa. Oh, how slow we are as parents to see, that the fault may lay within our own. How slow to see that that “problem,” may be someone just as desperate in need of love, of counsel, of the presence of someone who truly cares and is willing to speak the truth to them in love.
Now, two years later, I’ve had the privilege of spending time with her, and with her son, who is a precious and smiley 8 month-old. I pray with all my being that he is not another casualty of the consequences of abandonment, family violence, abuse or neglect. She is so young… and still so broken. It has been good to be with her, hear her story, and be able to speak some truth – in love this time – to her. Truth about her worth, about God’s love for her, about her need for His counsel, as He truly does care for her. I’m not sure how much she has “heard.” When we fix our eyes on another savior apart from Jesus, we are easily sidetracked. She is soon heading back to the jungle to try to raise her son with his father, who says he is now repentant for the way he treated her, and I pray that somehow, in the mess of it, they all find God’s redeeming grace, forgiveness, and wisdom.
However, as I walked up the hills of Carabayllo, I wasn’t praying anymore for my heart to be open to her, now there was another “problem.” Her sister has been living with her and their mother for a few months now also, recently broken up with her fiancé. In my mind and heart, I had made her into a “problem,” as well. Joking with her sister about being a “sinner” as she tried to read her Bible, dressing provocatively as she went out on the street… I was convinced that she was being a bad influence on her younger sister in her vulnerable state. “Lord, help me to see her through your eyes, help me to love her with your love,” I prayed as I walked. I had found out that she wasn’t working for the moment, a flu having kept her home for a few days. My self-righteous nature is easily awakened, and once again I found myself in the clutches of “if onlys…”
When I arrived, the sister was there, and not the brash girl I had seen on my last visit. She asked about missions, asked about why and how I was in Peru, and confessed her difficulty in connecting with God. She shared how she had gone to church with her fiancé, and had received Christ, but only to please him. She confessed how boring she found church, and how she had told her fiancé she wanted to be there and wanted to follow Christ, when she really didn’t at the time. In effect, she was sincere and vulnerable with me… and it undid me. God answered my prayer for my heart to be open to her in ways I didn’t know were possible during that short visit. Over lunch when I was talking with her Mom about giving her life to God to have Him sort through it instead of her trying to “clean it up” in order to give it back to Him pretty, the sister broke down crying. “I’d really like to follow God,” she said, “but the world seems so attractive sometimes… and church so boring. Do I have to go to church to follow God?” We had a great conversation about the need for fellow believers, about different churches, and about the value of the eternal versus the temporal. I got to share the fun fact that I’ve never found God boring after deciding to follow Him wholeheartedly… frustrating, painful, and heart-rending at times, but never boring, hahaha.
So, once again, I am humbled by the fact that God uses us even in our brokenness. Do join me in praying for this family who are searching and hungry for Love. And for me, that I’ll continue loving in ways that are stretching to this sometimes-critical heart.