Monday, October 23, 2017

The Invisible Girl

Thursday, October 30, 2008, 23:04
This news item was posted in Teen Talk category.
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by Dr. Chuck Baynard

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The Invisible Girl

The Masks of Life
(James 5:1-15)

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Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: But in every nation he that fears Him, and works righteousness, is accepted with him. (Acts 10:34-35)

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If only I were invisible . . .

I had watched the clerk ring up my last purchase in a grocery store on “the other side” of town where no one would know who I was when it happened. “Shirley!” I did not look up, I couldn’t, I knew the voice belonged to Steve. How well I knew that voice. The most fantastic boy in the whole high school. Why here? Why now? How I loved to hear him talk. But, what would he think of me if he saw me using . . . “Food stamps? May I have your food stamps now dear?” asked the clerk. I stepped to the front of the buggy and kept my back toward the aisles behind me. Why does she have to hold those food stamps up so high to count them?

I stole a glance behind me. Luck was with me for the moment. There were four other customers between me and Steve. I hurried out of the store toward the 77 “Pinto” in the parking lot. If everything went right, I could have the groceries loaded and be gone before Steve emerged from the store. I slid onto the sun baked seat and prayed the car would start this time (often it didn’t). The car sputtered a couple of times, but finally roared to life and I sped out of the parking lot. Now if only Steve had not seen me using the food stamps (though the clerk had tried her best to let everyone know) and didn’t know this rust bucket was ours, maybe, just maybe, everything would be okay.

Arriving home, my three younger sisters ran from the house to meet me. The two older ones helping carry the groceries inside, the youngest poking at the bags and asking, “Did you get me anything?” With my free hand I picked the toddler of the family up and told her to be patient and when we had everything put up we would have a popsicle. The groceries safely stowed we all retreated to the back porch with bright red cherry popsicle.

Watching my younger sisters play and enjoying the popsicle, my narrow escape from the grocery store soon faded from memory. Then, the phone rang! Rushing to get the phone before it awoke mother, I was not prepared for the voice that came from the phone. “Shirley?” There was that wonderful voice again and I could picture Steve on the other end of the phone. “Yes,” I answered. “This is Steve, I saw you at the grocery store but could not get your attention. The Church is having a cookout tonight and I wondered if you wanted to ride with me?” “No!” (I could not let him see where we lived. If he knew I lived in the government housing I would not have a chance, even in my dreams, of ever really being able to see him.) “Mom is not feeling well and I might have to watch my sisters. Perhaps if mom is feeling better I’ll see you there.” Casual good byes were exchanged and I reluctantly hung up the phone. How I would have liked to have extended that conversation. His voice sent chills up my spine. If only dad had not left us. If only mom was not pregnant and sick so she could work. If only I could find a job after school that paid something . . .

Later in the afternoon mom emerged from her room. I looked up to see her standing in the door way, tired and drawn looking, her hair wet and plastered to her scalp with sweat. The heat was so bad on her now, but we couldn’t afford to run the air conditioner. I quickly handed her one of the popsicles as I asked her if she would drop me off by the Church later and pick me up after the cookout. Mom looked at me a moment and said I could take the car or get another of the teens to pick me up, but she simply did not feel like going out. (I did not want to tell mom that I did not want the others to know what kind of car we drove or where we lived.) Mom was doing the best she could. But, if it was notfor the government programs and the help from some of the churches in the area we simply couldn’t make it. I thought about what James said in the Bible about the poor, and I knew I shouldn’t feel this way, but . . .

Having resigned myself to another evening at home, I went to my room to listen to the radio and read. I had hardly settled down when I heard mom screaming. I ran to her room and found her curled up in a ball on the bed screaming in pain. I thought she was having the baby and through a hundred questions and a lot of fear got her into the car. The car wouldn’t start! I tried and tried but it would not start. Mom’s cries were even louder and now all of my sisters were crying too. The only thing I could think of was Steve’s phone number. A number I knew ever so well, though I had never dared call it.

Mom’s pain and need pushed my fears aside and I rushed in to call Steve. Steve lived just a few blocks up the hill from the housing development. Steve answered the phone. I said, “Steve, this is Shirley. I think my mom is having a baby and she is in a lot of pain. I can’t get the car started, can you come and help? I live in apartment 10B in the development at the bottom of the hill.” Steve said he was on the way and would be here in five minutes. He arrived in three with a beautiful girl with red hair. He informed me that Missy would watch my sisters as he helped mom into his car.

At the hospital they took mom into a back room while I stayed outside to give them the information they needed. After filling out several forms the nurse asked me how we would be paying. Though my dreams about me and Steve were already crushed, I reluctantly handed the nurse Mom’s Medicaid card, hoping Steve would not notice.

Later as I watched Steve pace the floor, I wondered what he thought about me now that he knew the truth about me. Finally I hesitantly asked Steve how he felt about seeing me now that he knew I was one of the “economically disadvantaged” we studied in civics. Steve looked at me a long moment before he replied, “Shirley, I have always known who you were, where you lived, and that your dad had deserted you. I have kept asking you to go, places with me, and trying to get to really know you because I still think you are rich.” “Me? Rich? That does not make sense!” He then told me that it takes more than money to be rich, that I had class. That I appeared to know who I was, I held my head up knowing where I was going despite the present circumstances. He said from different things he had seen and heard at Church that he knew I was rich in faith, something the other kids struggled with. I seemed to be happy and in control when everyone else was so out of control. He admired these things and wanted to know me better and these other things (money, where I lived, etc.) did not matter. Then I remembered the beautiful red head he had with him. “What about your girl friend?” “My what?” “The red headed girl at home.” “That is my sister, I knew you would need someone to keep your sisters.”

Suddenly I was aware of what I must look like with my hair messed up, popsicle lips, and my “after school” clothes on. As I headed for the rest room a doctor appeared and told me that Mom was fine and we had another sister in the family. Though I knew it was night and I could not see outside, I was sure the sun was shining. Months of tears and deep pain melted away as I knew indeed God hears and answers prayer. We were the same family, with yet another mouth to feed, but I knew God was in control. I knew now my faith was not wasted, that in His way, God would bring our whole family through this time of tribulation, stronger and better than before. I did not fully understand that at the moment, nor now, but I knew for sure, God’s love and care are bigger than life.

This story is not a true story. This is woven from the events in several people’s lives. The end result of being faithful to God is true. Every day it is proven in thousands of lives that are in as much or more turmoil than yours. Not one day passes without thousands seeing their prayers answered after months of crying into their pillows all night for God’s help. God’s timing is not ours. We may never understand the circumstances He has allowed to come into our lives, but He is God, He is there for us, He does love us. Hang in there, this too will pass. While most of us can come to a point where we believe that God loves us and our earthly position and wealth don’t count, we have a hard time believing this about another. Take heart, God also has His remnant on earth and there are others who will love you, and respect you for what is inside your heart, not what covers your body. Hold your head up and walk in the sunshine, if God is for you, what does it matter who on earth is against you? (Read James 2:5, God has chosen those who are poor by the standards of the world to be rich in faith and inherit His kingdom.)

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Question: What circumstances the individual has no control over may cause them to be ashamed of who they are?

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Question: Do males and females “hide” their true self differently? How?

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Question: What does Peter speaking in the book of Acts mean that God is not a respecter of persons?

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Question: How can you reach out to someone like Shirley who tries to avoid having close friends, or even friends because they don’t want anyone to know their circumstance?

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Question: Do you think this verse also applies to trying to reach out to those others seem to reject or ignore because they are not their “type?” “Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” (Hebrews 13:2)

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Question: How can we entertain or be hospitable to people like Shirley without appearing to be looking down at them?

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Question: What does the Bible say we should do in different times or moods as the circumstances in our lives change? Can you find the application of James 5:1-5 to this story?

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Go to now, ye rich men, weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you. Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are motheaten. Your gold and silver is cankered; and the rust of them shall be a witness against you, and shall eat your flesh as it were fire. Ye have heaped treasure together for the last days. Behold, the hire of the laborers who have reaped down your fields, which is of you kept back by fraud, crieth: and the cries of them which have reaped are entered into the ears of the Lord of Hosts. Ye have lived in pleasure on the earth, and been wanton; ye have nourished your hearts, as in a day of slaughter. Ye have condemned and killed the just; and he doth not resist you. Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waits for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain. Be ye also patient; establish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draws nigh. Grudge not one against another, brethren, lest ye be condemned: behold, the judge stands before the door. Take, my brethren, the prophets, who have spoken in the name of the Lord, for an example of suffering affliction, and of patience. Behold, we count them happy which endure. Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy. But above all things, my brethren, swear not, neither by heaven, neither by the earth, neither by any other oath: but let your yea be yea; and your nay, nay; lest ye fall into condemnation. Is any among you afflicted? let him pray. Is any merry? let him sing psalms. Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him. (James 5:1-15)

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Dr. Baynard is an Associate Editor of the Christian Observer and Senior Pastor at Clover Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Clover, South Carolina

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