Today I introduce you to one of the loves of my life, Sammy. If you were to meet her, you would quickly recognize her compassionate smile and her stunning ability to look glamorous in her thrift store finds. You would see a beautiful young woman, with a light that glimmers of love, but you will also see the shadows of simmering pain. You would sense sweetness about her and feel the tension of her grip on trying to hold her life together, amidst the mess that it is.
Sammy was born to a father that would soon abandon her, and a mother who suffered through a tumultuous life, suffering from a debilitating disease and countless struggles. Sammy has spent her life living in poverty, caring for her mother, and trying to survive the constant pressures of both. After 17 years of living this captive life of longing for healing, justice and answered prayers, she staggers through the darkness with that flickering light of faith and fortitude like no other. Sammy and I have been friends for years, long before I began leading the teen ministry at my church. She is incredibly intelligent and hard-working, kind and respectful, insightful and mature, and creative and gifted. I have yet to meet another teenager who has the strength and the stamina that Sammy has.
After years of stifling the pain and burying the wounds inflicted on her precious soul, the brokenness within is pouring out. When you stuff those countless overwhelming emotions down for years and years of attempting to navigate a life full of constant unpredictable uncertainties, a life stuck in hopelessness and helplessness and loss… the damage must be evident somewhere. A person can only take so much…
This year she has spiraled into anorexia, bulimia and self-injuring to mask the pain, escape the madness, and grasp control of the broken pieces that are whirling out of control within her battered heart. She has been grappling with old scars and freshly formed wounds that she simply cannot bear. The weight of it all is pulling her farther down… into the prison of herself.
Sammy has been spending time with me, and we have had some amazing talks, she and I. The last time she stayed with us, I sent her home with homework. Not the usual mathematics and reading… but the tough stuff… going ‘there’. Bless her tormented heart! She came back this week with the homework finished! I was so proud of her… when I checked in to see how she was doing with it, she replied: “It’s the hardest homework I have ever had.”
I know babe. I know.
When we were planning her recent visit, I asked if she had finished her homework. She was able to do most of it but shared that the last question stumped her. Oh, sweet Sammy! Don’t ya know I will give you a fresh new challenge with that?
The question was this:
What are five good elements in your life?
And so it begins.
We spent the day talking about her homework answers and sifting through more of the muck. She hadn’t had a good week, and we needed to come up with more of a game plan for those dreaded moments of despair and her inability to escape. I helped her begin to think deeper about the good elements in HER and consequently in her life. She caught on quickly, that girl’s a hell of a student. I told her to come up with TEN instead of FIVE. (You saw that coming, didn’t you?)
Videotape saying them OUT LOUD to the WORLD as her testimony!
Bless her sweet soul.
She did it. She found her voice. She needs so desperately to be heard…
Take her into your heart, my friends. Take her into your prayers. Take her life, her pain, and her circumstances and pour out your love, encouragement, advice, and hope for a broken and bruised girl- with an UNBEATABLE heart. It’s my privilege and honor to share her with you. Oh, how I pray she believes His Promise:
Jeremiah 29:11New International Version (NIV)
11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
Believe it, sweet love. Believe it.