Amanza swiped at her scarred left arm, then with that hand, rubbed the permanent-crooked fingers on her right. Would the self-consciousness ever lessen?
From outside the youth room at the church, Amanza heard voices. She peaked through the plexiglass window of the door. Across the room, a black wall with a large star in the middle with smaller stars cascading outward. Names in various sizes and shades of color adorned the next wall. In the middle of the mass, and the largest of all, she read the word YAHWEH. Pictures of children and young people of many shades covered the last wall she could see. A world map hung on the next wall.
Underneath—another sentence; What is God’s mission in and through you?
Amanza pushed the metal door open and stepped into the room. Like a switch, conversations ended. Silence bombarded her.
After a deep breath, she stepped to the front of, what the church called, the youth room. She glanced at the wall she hadn’t seen through the window. A large painted heart adorned it with a cross in the middle. Footprints appeared to walk from the heart into a sketch of the town where the church was located.
“Hey everyone. I was asked to share about something with you today, but after looking around this creatively decorated room,” a few chuckles rippled toward her, “I’d rather have a conversation.” She reached for a nearby chair.
A young man jumped up from the front row and grabbed the chair before she could. “Where do you want it?”
Heat drifted from under Amanza’s turtleneck sweater. She grasped a bottle of water, fiddled with the lid, then set it back on the table where it had been.
The boy picked it up, unscrewed the top, and handed it to her.
“Um, thank you. What’s your name?”
“Name’s Kyle” His gaze continued on her eyes and he held out his hand.
She didn’t oblige. “Let me ask you,” Amanza drew in a steadying breath, “why did you help me?” Please don’t say you feel sorry for me.
His stare never left her face. “My momma would whoop my behind if I didn’t.” He winked. Still his hand remained.
Snickers filled the room.
If she reached out, he would feel her deformity. Everyone would see.
He didn’t lower his hand.
Almost in slow-motion, she lifted her right fist. He grasped it and shook gently, then released it.
Once she could stop shaking, Amanza sat on the stool as Kyle returned to his seat. “As you probably could tell, I’m still a bit self-conscious.
“Most of you are in high school. I was your age when it happened and had just arrived back from a tour of colleges. A car crashed into our home and exploded.” She took another sip of water and continued. “I’m the last of my family. No one else survived. At times, I wonder why I did, and at other times, I wish I hadn’t.” Would this ever get any easier to tell? As she lowered her head, she swiped at another escaping tear.
“After the fire at our lake house, which killed my parents and cousin, it’s taken me a while to build the courage to stand before people and talk.” A shudder raced across her shoulders and arms. She picked up the bottle and took another gulp before she spoke again.
A hand pushed a tissue into the opening of her right hand. Amanza glanced up into Kyle’s eyes. He winked again, turned, and strode to his chair.
She sat up straighter, then pointed at the wall with the word MISSION. “What is God’s mission in your life?” Her tension gave up a bit of its territory.
A few answers were spoken.
“No matter what you think of yourself, or you think others think of you, no matter how you feel about yourself, no matter how much you like yourself and how you look . . . or don’t, God’s view of you and what He wants for you doesn’t change. So what does He want for you?”
Several of the students answered. All clichés. All rote. “Do good.” “Read the Bible.” “Pray.” “Go to church.”
“Those are great answers, but is that all? What about the verses that tell us to love God with everything we are and to love others? Why do you think He said that?”
Feet shuffled. Chairs creaked. Then a throat cleared.
“Jesus died so the relationship between us and God could be reestablished.” Kyle offered.
From the back, a girl stood. “I think we show God’s love by how we love others.”
Amanza smiled. “Thank you. I agree with both of you. So what does that look like on a daily basis? You have this big sign,” she pointed at the mission wall, “and a great question. But until we’re ready to see that God’s love for us doesn’t change no matter what we look like,” she raised her crumpled hand, “or how much we sin, or what we do to gain His approval, we’ll waste our time trying to earn what’s already ours.” She took another swallow of water as more tension flowed away.
“I had to learn that the hard way. God wants to take our scars and the broken pieces of life and love us through them. Then, we can share His love with others. That’s the mission. But,” Amanza allowed the silence to stretch for several moments, “until each one of us puts our focus on His love and desire for relationship with us, we’ll continue looking to others for approval. I’m still learning and growing in this area. I once heard someone say that we’re broken so God’s love can shine through and we have scars, visible and invisible, to remind us of the scars Jesus has.”
After another few minutes of discussion, most of the students left the room. Kyle remained.
“Thank you for helping me.” Amanza held out her right hand.
He shook her hand but didn’t release it. With his left, he unbuttoned his shirt cuff on his right sleeve and rolled it up. Wrinkles, scars, and skin puckers ran up and down his forearm. “I’ve kept my arms covered long enough.” He let go of her hand. “I needed to hear what you said today. I guess if God made me well enough after my accident to walk and talk still . . . well, I think it’s time to stop hiding.”
Amanza rested her hand on his bare arm. “Focus on your relationship with God and let Him use your pieces and scars to show His love to others.” She nodded toward the wall. “Want to talk about what that might look like?” Kyle nodded, walked through the open door, and waited for her in the hall.
As Amanza neared the door, she reached out and touched one of the footprints on the wall. She whispered, “I’ll walk with You today, God. Keep fixing the broken pieces and healing all of the scars.”
Photo Credit: Unsplash: Marjan Blan