“Stop ignoring me.”
It was simple, short and straight to the point. The person who sent me this text message was sitting less than five feet away from me in a room full of people. We had talked that day, but not like we used to. A lot had changed in a year.
This time last year, we were going on a college tour, talking about what boys she liked and celebrating her 18th birthday. She had become the little sister I never had.
On her birthday, I sat at a dinner table, listening to an older man explain to her that how she presented herself could determine the type of man she attracts and how it could also lead that man to make an assumption about what she will or won’t do. (That day, she specifically wore a dress to attract a boy she liked at church. It was eye-catching to say the least. It led to the topic of discussion.) I agreed with what the man was saying. I understood exactly what he meant and chose to chime in with my two cents. At the time, it appeared we were simply speaking from experience, but looking back, I realized it wasn’t the time nor the place. I could tell our words were falling on deaf ears. I could tell our advice felt more like judgment. I later apologized.
One year later and there we were, sitting in her mother’s house. Her smile was big, but her heart was heavy. Her words spoke of confidence, but her body language whispered fear. I could see it in her eyes. She was no longer a kid anymore. She was now a single mother.
When I found out about her pregnancy, it came by no surprise. It did, however, come with disappointment. I thought to myself, “This is what I wanted her to avoid, the roadblock I wanted her to pass up.” Don’t get me wrong, I know that being a mother is a blessing, but I also knew it wasn’t in her original plan. I knew it wasn’t a goal she’d set for herself and it was something she never saw coming. Months had passed before I realized my disappointment stopped me from showing her the love I had for her. I distanced myself. I fell just short of the old folks in the traditional churches. I never shunned her, but I knew that to her, it felt like I did.
When she texted me, “Stop ignoring me,” it surprised me because I didn’t think she noticed my distance and I didn’t think she cared. It was in this moment that God showed me my own faults. I had consistently prayed for Him to teach me how to love like He does. He reminded me that though I disappoint Him, He constantly draws near.
“Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend to heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there.” -Psalm 139:7-8
It is when we are at our lowest that the Holy Spirit will comfort us and remind us of His grace and unrelenting love. He will wipe our tears and tell us there is nothing to be ashamed of, there is no mistake He can’t fix, and there is no failure too big for Him to get the glory from. Just when the devil thinks he has us down, God shows up and proves otherwise. Roadblocks are common, but failure is impossible with Christ.
Deep down, I knew she felt like she failed and when she needed me the most to remind her of the truth, I wasn’t there. Could you imagine what life would be like if God did the same thing to us? He is, in fact, the only one capable of judging our actions and yet, He pursues (Matthew 18:12-14). Even when He convicts us of our sins, His intention is not to beat us down or constantly remind us where we have fallen, but it is to ultimately build us up.
I thought my silence was better than any words I could say to her because I didn’t want my disappointment to speak louder than my love. But perhaps, love doesn’t always need words. Perhaps, it only needs to show up and be present. Perhaps, it is a pair of ears, a warm embrace or a shoulder to help carry a burden. Perhaps, it is not dependent on how I feel. Perhaps, it means drawing near no matter the circumstance.
“Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails…” -1 Corinthians 13:4-8