“He loved you before all worlds; long ere the day star flung his ray across the darkness, before the wing of angel had flapped the unnavigated ether, before aught of creation had struggled from the womb of nothingness, God, even our God, had set his heart upon all his children…Ye who have tasted of his love and know his grace, will bear me witness, that he has been in uncertain circumstances a certain friend.” ~Charles Spurgeon
Sometimes you think you’re lacking something. And then you realize what you do have is somehow sweeter and more than you could have imagined.
I was reminded of this when reading a story to Rhema about Zacchaeus, a tax collector by trade in Bible times who stole peoples’ money. It went like this: “There was once a man named Zacchaeus who didn’t have any friends (none). Do you have any friends?…”
Naturally, parents want their children to have rich, meaningful relationships in their lives. It’s taken me years to understand what friendship is/means for Rhema. There are no birthday party invitations or playdates or phone calls or the camaraderie of sports teams and group activities… and that fact used to pain my heart.
But she has friends – her wonderful classmates and teachers at school, Dana and Melissa (her sitters who care for her so much just the way she is), so many people in the online community who cheer her, pray for her and support her from afar. She is enthusiastically loved! What a gift.
I once wrote the following about her classmates: “They give and don’t keep score. G will happily and faithfully say “Hi Rhema!” every day whether she looks at him or not. In my simple way of thinking, friendship involves/includes reciprocation. For a friendship to exist she would need to do something for them; acknowledge them and talk to them and play with them. In my limited perspective, she doesn’t seem to do any of those things. But maybe she does. And even if she doesn’t, they don’t need it from her. And maybe they know each other better than most and get each other in a ‘girl, you don’t have to say a thing’ sort of way. Maybe they share a bond I cannot begin to understand…”
“Do you have any friends, Rhema?”
I held up her RPM letterboard. (Click here for more info on RPM)
She pointed to the letters “Y E S.”
She knows she has friends. Knowing she knows is a shot of relief and joy to my soul.
“What’s the name of your friend?”
“H O P E.”
“Hope” is Rhema’s answer to a lot of questions. (Can you picture my huge smile? Now picture Hope’s – it’s even bigger.) Hope is excited about her sister’s growing abilities to communicate her thoughts through RPM and tickled pink when Rhema spells her name.
We read the rest of the story… how Jesus looked up and saw the un-seen, the outcast – Zacchaeus in a sycamore tree (he was short so he’d climbed up for a better view). How He invited himself to Zacchaeus’ house and shared a meal with him– this man who had no friends. How Jesus knew everything about him and yet he still loved him. In an instant the fellowship of Jesus changed Z’s life and heart forever. He pledged to give half his income to the poor and pay back four times over everyone he has cheated. In the Storybook Bible, Jesus said, “My friend! Today God has rescued you.”
We chewed on that for a while, the fact that the Most High God befriended a man whom everyone despised. Then I said to Rhema. “Can you tell me the name of another friend of yours?”
She spelled, “J E S U S.”
“Yep. He’s an even better friend than me,” said Hope still beaming. “And that’s saying something.”
This is my Father and Friend. He gently, faithfully provides for my needs. He holds my hand wherever I go. Chases me when I bolt. Scoops me up when I flop. Kisses my hurts. Washes me, clothes me, feeds me good things. He understands my heart in the silence. He keeps on speaking, every day He tells the mercy story. He fights for me and cheers for me. When I refuse Him, He stoops down to love me. He is my safe room, surrounding me in unbreakable grace.
It may sound simple-minded to some people. But for me, for Rhema and Hope, it’s our testimony.