The teen years can be difficult. I had a season in my late teens that was heartbreaking for those who loved me most.
Though I grew up in a solid Christian environment, some things went haywire for a period of time when my heart grew cold toward God and I was pulled in by friends making unwise decisions. It’s not like I wanted to rebel against my parents. I thought I could stray a little and still be fine.
I was wrong.
When my parents learned about some choices I’d made, they did something I’ll never forget and I’ll forever be grateful for: They pulled me in close.
They didn’t shame me. They didn’t push me away. They didn’t label me.
Yes, they were hurt. Yes, they cried. Yes, they drew hard boundaries in my life to protect me. But they didn’t make me feel like I was the sum total of my mistakes. They quickly admitted how desperately they needed grace; therefore, they would walk with me in grace. They prayed and asked God to give me relief from my unbelief. And they waited and watched for my heart to soften.
Instead of focusing on how bad I’d been, they pointed to all the good they knew I could do. They showed me how the world was big, full of needs and that I had a role to play. I had an assignment in the great plans and purposes of God. They cast a vision for me that was much better and eventually so much more appealing than the poor choices I’d been making.
It started with me working with a precious group of women who grew up on the other side of the world. They moved to the U.S. after their homeland became too dangerous. Several of them had scars from being shot and each one had stories that shocked me.
Working side by side at my dad’s restaurant, I fell in love with them. And watching their love for God and joy in Jesus changed me. A deep and unshakable mercy stirred a passion in me to go to countries where people are hurting.
I’m in my 20s now, happily married, and working full time at Proverbs 31 Ministries. But that passion to help others has never left. Recently, I traveled to India to serve a group of people so rejected in their society that if they drink or eat from a clay dish in public, it has to be broken so others won’t get “tainted by them.” It broke my heart, and made me determined to learn more so I could help!
I watched as others shamed them and pushed them away. I watched as others labeled them the “untouchables.” And an unrelenting desire rose up in me to pull them close. Just like my parents did when I was at my most desperate time.
I will not push past this need. I will not be okay with them being labeled. I will find a way to help.
That’s what you do when you’ve personally been touched by deep grace and unshakable mercy. That’s what you do when you realize drawing near to those who are brokenhearted is what the Lord did for us, as our key verse says: “The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18).
And you find ways to pass it on.
Whether it’s your home, a restaurant down the street or in a slum halfway around the world, someone needs to experience the grace of God and a person who loves and believes in them. It changed my life.
This can be hard and we don’t always know what to do. It was hard for my parents, and it’s hard for me when I see people in need. I may not do things perfectly, but with God’s wisdom and strength, I will try.
Lord, give me relief from my unbelief. I don’t know how to change things, but I’m committed to living out Your truth today and being obedient to what You put in front of me today. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
(I wrote this devotion for Proverbs 31 Ministries, Encouragment For Today.)