He was a visitor in our high school Sunday School class. He should have fit right in. Just by happenstance, the class was all boys that day. All private school and homeschool Christian young men. And even though he had long since passed the 6-foot mark, he wasn’t towering over anyone in our overgrown class. But me, I suppose.
I tried to be cordial but he was clearly uncomfortable. I asked him some questions, but he stuttered so badly that I wasn’t sure whether my attempts at friendliness were making things better or worse.
I felt for him. His siblings were grown and gone. He was a homeschooled missionary kid living in a land where the average height of the natives is a good 14 inches shorter than him. When in the States, his family would travel church to church, never staying long enough for him to be anything but a stranger.
A shy, stuttering home school student looking like no one in a sea of look-alike nationals. Talk about a recipe for loneliness.
I don’t know if he is lonely or not. It wasn’t like he bared his soul to a strange group of lanky cut-up high schoolers and their teacher. I’m just using my Sherlock Homes-like powers of deduction to suppose that if I were him, I might have trouble making friends. And I might be lonely.
And, frankly, I felt for him. Even if I might never see him again, I cared. Perhaps because it brought back memories of some of my teen years. Perhaps because I thought of some other people I knew who as high schoolers seemed like misfits—through no fault of their own they were just in places that friends were hard to come by. Good friends, that is.
When I was just starting high school, I was finding that the kids that I had grown up with seemed to be taking a different path in life than me. Not right and wrong necessarily—just different. We had different priorities, we wanted to talk about different things. I stopped getting invited to their birthday parties. What started as “BFF” came to a jagged end. Some of my friendships died a natural death, some a thousand unnatural ones. It seems like drama over nothing in the rearview mirror—only because it is so long ago. But it was painful then.
I invested my time in other pursuits, like “Cubbies.” I discovered in junior high that I loved kids. Working with pre-schoolers was the highlight of my week. I was better at it then than I am now, I’m sure. Just a lot less inhibited.
I can remember little ones come flying toward me with their arms outstretched saying “Miss Danielle!” and lighting up my heart. One of them came to give me a hug and said, “Miss Danielle, you’re my BEST friend!” The memory of that still brings tears to my eyes (although he would be mortified now if I reminded him).
I didn’t have many friends my age then, but I guess God knew I didn’t need many. I didn’t need to be running around with other high schoolers doing whatever it is that teens do. I was better off investing my life in the hearts of little ones and building relationships with wise adults.
It was perhaps a somewhat lonely season of life. But it was just that—a season.
And now, having the benefit of being able to look back, I guess what I wished I could say the 6 foot plus high schooler in my Sunday School class was this—remember the sparrows.
In a familiar Bible passage, Jesus says this: “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows…” Matthew 27:29-31
Jesus is speaking in the context of persecution, but he makes some universal points very clear:
I know. I care.
Like many other Bible passages, I tend to discredit this one as too familiar. Too simple. Too well traveled to be holding valuable insight.
But recently, it struck me like never before. Jesus points to creatures that to us seem virtuously worthless. You’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all. No personality. No unusual skill. No good looks. Just noisy birds intent on filling their big bird mouths and making their little bird nests. Like every other sparrow.
And Jesus says this: God the Father knows those sparrows. Individually. So much so that not one of them will fall to the ground without His notice. If He takes such loving care of sparrows, how much more does he care for his children?
He knows. He cares.
Jesus is driving home a point that I still find difficult to believe—that the Father is intimately acquainted with every detail of our lives. He doesn’t miss an event so small as a hair lost. He is closer than a brother. More diligent than a shepherd. More attentive than a mother with her little one.
His children—regardless of how empty and barren they may be tempted to feel— can cling to the truth that they are intimately known and extravagantly loved. Whatever season of life they are in, they have not been forgotten. They have not been left waiting in the wings while some more pressing need is being addressed.
I wonder if that young man who visited my Sunday School class will be the next D.L. Moody, Charles Spurgeon, Adoniram Judson, or John MacArthur. Perhaps a season of life when every sentence is a struggle will turn him into an orator who weighs the value of every syllable he speaks. Maybe he will value his relationships with others so highly that his contributions into their lives will be transforming. Maybe he will have more time on his hands as a young man to invest in things that are going to matter for eternity than most. Maybe he lost a few hairs today.
I don’t know.
But the Father does.