Fast forward to the middle of our week in Ethiopia. We had noticed that many of the little girls in the Kind Hearts Carepoint had pierced ears. They looked as though they had been pierced with tiny slivers of wood, and often appeared to be infected. After having just observed the sterile and relatively painless method by which R's ears had been pierced, I have a hard time imagining the scene in which those little slivers had been forced through tiny earlobes. Looking back, I'm not sure I actually ever noticed a little girl with earrings; I'm sure there must have been some, but what stuck in my memory was those little ears with the pieces of wood pierced through. One of the members of our team mentioned that she wished she had a pair of earrings to give to her sponsored child, who was one of the girls with infected ears, but she hadn't brought a pair with her. I was excited to remember that R had brought her little earring set, and said that I was sure she would be happy to give a pair away.
Later that night, I mentioned the conversation to R. She didn't say much, but agreed that she would give away one of her pairs of earrings. She climbed up on the top bunk where she was sleeping, inspected the set, and showed me a pair that she had chosen to give away. I, not at all sensitive to any trouble brewing yet, pointed out that I thought one of the other pairs was cuter, and might be a better choice. This is when things began to go south. I hadn't yet realized that those earrings were at the center of a battle going on over R's heart. I continued the discussion, suggesting that she choose a pair which I didn't know were her favorites, and then wondering why she didn't just give them all away; there were several little girls at Kind Heart to choose from (all with splinters in their ears).
She did not want to give them away. She particularly didn't want to give away the pairs she liked best. In retrospect, I can consider that she was separated at that time from everything that feels familiar and comfortable and safe to her. She was away from her Daddy, who is her compass. She was exhausted, hungry, and stressed. They were the first earrings she had ever had; she did not want to part from those earrings. I, in my typical fashion of processing out loud (when will I learn to be slow to speak?) just burst out my disapproval to her. I don't remember my exact words, but it was probably something along the lines of this: "Really!? You seriously don't know whether you want to give away your earrings? Did you notice that some of those girls don't even have shoes?" I won't go on (it's too painful to admit any more), but suffice it to say that I stood myself up on a platform of self-righteousness. And I'll confess that my pride was at work. She was bursting my bubble. I wanted her to respond perfectly (every time, of course). I wanted her to gush lovely, unselfish words about those little girls being so much more important than her earrings. (I was expecting her to be...better than I am.) Instead, she was being honest about her feelings. I'm sure she knew that she should've been happy to give those earrings away, but she just wasn't. By the end of the evening, I had told her to just give me the earrings; that I would give them away, and replace them for her when we got home. I was less than compassionate. (I would love to be able to make excuses for myself now, and say that I was also tired, hungry, stressed, and away from my safe places, but then again, I am not 13 by a long shot. I knew better.)
Morning came, and with it, of course....His mercies. R had (figuratively) unclasped her fist from around those earrings. She really didn't say anything to me other than to tell me that she would give them away. And she did. It wasn't until two weeks later, after we were home, that she told me that she had found joy in giving them away. That God had changed her heart. And He changed mine, too. Because that day was a bit of a turning point for both of us. When her dad (unaware of this whole ugly story) asked her to share with him one thing God had taught her through this trip, her response was, "I learned not to hold onto my stuff." That might sound small, but it's not. It's an area where her heart is vulnerable, and we knew it, and she knew it. And her Father, out of committed love for her, put her in a painful position in order to expose it to her more fully and start healing her...making her stronger. And as for me...I will be processing for a long while all of the things God showed me about myself on that trip. But what I will share now is just what He taught me about my daughter. That God is using her to make me better. That her raw honestly, in clinging on to those little pairs of earrings, showed me a reflection of my own heart as I so often cling to things that can never satisfy me, while I miss out on the joy of just laying them down and running to Him. But since I'm not 13, I have developed the finesse to hide my own selfishness much better than she can hide hers...sometimes I even fool myself. She is honest. She is full of sin and struggle and uncertainty about who she is and who God is. She is beautiful, and showing me that I am beautiful to my Father, even as I fall and get up and fall again. And since I am an imperfect mom, and so often fail even in helping her as she falls and struggles to get up again, I am so thankful that her Father is there for her.
So this is the verse that came to my heart this morning. Matthew 13:44: "The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field."
I'm so thankful that those earrings are in Ethiopia right now. And just maybe, they were a down payment on a treasure. Hidden in a field.
What can I give Him, poor as I am? If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;. If I were a wiseman, I would do my part; Yet what I can I give Him; give my heart.