Listen to this devotional:
Listen while you read: "The Head That Once Was Crowned"1 (Lyrics)
A large man was kicking in my front door, interrupting the nap that I'd been taking with my children, ages three and four. "I want my kids!" he was screaming.
There was no time to run and hide, so I bundled my sleepy two under the blanket, shushed them and sat up, praying hard. "I'm afraid you've got the wrong house …" I began.
He advanced on me, anguish in his eyes. "Everybody in the neighbourhood knows that a baby snatcher lives here! Where are my kids?"
Baby snatcher! He meant Child Services Worker, my husband's current employment.
"Why don't I let you talk to my husband," I said, picking up the phone before he could get closer. "This is an emergency," I told the agency. "Let me speak to my husband." Right away, his quiet, friendly voice was on the line.
No time to explain. I handed the phone to the big man, who held back tears as he took it.
"I want my kids!" the man said without preamble.
"I haven't got them," I could hear my husband say, "but I know where they are. I'll be right with you, and we'll go see them."
The man growled a reluctant assent. "Let me talk to my wife just a sec?" my husband continued.
A large hand passed the phone to me. "You okay?"
I said that we were, as the three-year-old poked his head out of the blanket and said, "Mama?"
Suddenly, I saw the big man, not as a threat, but as a soul suffering one of the worst things that can happen to a parent. We'd just moved to this poor community. Word seemed to have gotten around quickly that the new neighbour was what they called a baby snatcher — someone with the authority to take away their children if they messed up.
Psalm 127:3 – Children are a gift from the Lord; they are a reward from him. (NLT)
This man had lost his gift and his reward in one swoop from an agency employee. What could he do? No wonder pain — and God — had brought him to me.
The door opened, and my husband came in, a head shorter and many pounds lighter than the intruder. He crossed the room, holding out his hand. "Let's go find your kids right now!" he said as the man got to his feet. "We'll take my car."
Relieved, the father mumbled "Sorry" at me, and behind his back, my husband gave me a thumbs-up sign. I was only a bystander, helpless in a situation not uncommon where low income and temptations overwhelm an otherwise loving parent.
When we have an opportunity to witness to God's love in a problematic situation, before we try to do something, we need to meet people where they are, understand why they are feeling as they are, and respond with non-judgemental empathy. We need to follow the example of Jesus:
Hebrews 4:15 – For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are — yet he did not sin. (NIV2011)
Prayer: O Lord, we ask for healing amidst all the pain in this world. Strengthen us to deal with difficult situations and to be understanding of the condition of those around us. In Jesus' name, we pray. Amen.