I really like my job. Honestly, it’s a blessing. I make decent money for easy work in a pleasant environment with mostly agreeable customers and coworkers. Not to mention there are perks here and there which outweigh whatever disadvantages I come across. However, in retail, you deal with the public, and when you deal with the public, you’re bound to come across some disagreement sometimes.
Last night I was behind the counter ringing out a customer when a classic nuclear family walks in: mom, dad, son, daughter. The kids were small and while mom and dad looked at items on one side of the small store, brother and sister went directly to the brightly-colored number and letter tiles. They dropped one without it breaking, so I called out a gentle “careful guys” and continued with the customer at the counter. Mom promptly goes to the children and insists they put away the tiles now. The boy backs away and the girl tries repeatedly to replace the tiles. They fall once, twice, finally breaking on the third fall. The little girl was already on her knees to best reach the tile notch. When she saw it break, she instantly hung her head and started crying.
My heart broke for the little girl. Such a reaction usually indicates abuse of one sort or another. Mom escorts the kids outside. Dad gets the tile and brings it to me, with the same severe look on his face he had been wearing since I greeted him. I told him not to worry about paying for it. It was only one tile. “Are you sure?” Yes, it’s quite all right. So dad goes outside and he and mom tell the girl to come apologize. I was finished with my previous customer and was trying not to cry at this point. For whatever reason, my heart just went to this child.
The poor girl nearly couldn’t move for fear. Mom told her I wouldn’t be mad at her and she would go in with her. I squatted down to her level before she even walked in and she stopped short over a foot from me, trying to hold back tears. I was in the same place. I told her not to worry, that grown-ups break the tiles all the time. What was her name? “Katie.” How old was she? “Seven…and a half.” Is that your brother? “Yes.” We carried on a little conversation. I told her I have a friend named Katie. I also have a sister a little younger than she was. Her name is Julia. Did she have any friends named Julia? “Yes. She’s in my brother’s class.”
The mom seemed relieved that I was handling this so well. Finally, Katie started to eat her melting ice cream again and looked to be past her fright. I wanted to hug her, but my professional side told me that might be inappropriate. After they left, I found myself praying for her and her family off and on throughout the rest of the night. I prayed for the spirit of fear trying to take root in her life to be cast out by God’s perfect love, for her father to discipline rather than punish, for someone to enter Katie and her brother’s life who would share the love of Christ with them and build a mentoring relationship with them, for Katie to understand truly what grace means and how differently God the Father treats us compared to how our earthly parents often do.
You may already know this, but not all abuse is physical. Sometimes it’s a methodical psychological programming, sometimes it’s repetitive emotional battery, sometimes it’s a backhand to the face. Whether it’s a flare of screaming or a habit of spanking for every offense large or small, abuse happens, often under our radar.
I encourage you today to pray for children like Katie. Children who have been programmed to fear when they should expect grace and mercy, children who feel trapped and hopeless, children who won’t know how to function in adult relationships if they continue to be mistreated in childhood ones. Pray for their safety and for God’s restoration in their lives and hearts and minds.
Later on I looked at the broken tile still under the counter. It was the letter J. First I thought of my sister, Julia, and how her sensitive nature could easily lead her down the same path of fear without careful action on mine and my mother’s part. Then I remembered who else’s name begins with J: Jesus.
We have all broken Jesus with our sin, whether by deliberate act, careless whim, or simply being born with our sin nature. But God didn’t allow Him to be broken so that He could smite us for His son’s death. Instead He offered us mercy and grace and forgiveness. Jesus is for Katie, and He is for you too. If you feel afraid of Him because of your past or your present, pray that His perfect love would cast it out and that He would restore your fellowship with Him, that He would restore your heart.