Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Ugliness of My Own Heart, as Seen Through Jean

* this is long, but its a drawn out confession, so details were necessary to paint the picture.

Yes. I went to Haiti in response to the earthquake. Yes. I wept with those who wept and tried to bring peace & comfort to the children. Yes. This was an act of obedience for me... God presented a choice to me when the invitation to travel came my way: Be available to respond to the opportunity God put in my path OR come up with an excuse as to why now just won't work for me. By His strength, I said yes Lord... send me!

Truth is, I thought that was gonna be the hardest part. And in fact was grateful He'd given me the strength to GO. But not everything about my trip was obedient. In fact, I was convicted about some serious yuckiness within me and wanted to transparently share it here.
One of the rescued orphans there was a 6 yr old named Jean. He had cerebral palsy (we guessed) and had been abandoned at a hospital in PAP by his mother after the earthquake. Danita took him in, but once he arrived we began to feel the weight of his special needs. He had multiple seizures a day, was likely blind, had very little (if any) muscle control, and was malnourished & dehydrated. And it looked like he had evidence of scabies on his hands.

His first day, we found a jogging stroller to put him in. Where he sat...all day...each day. He needed a care-giver to be with him round the clock. The other children at Danita's immediately took to him and pushed him around in the stroller, caressed his soft skin, tried to feed him water from a bottle. They loved him so easily and naturally.

I, however, was afraid of Jean. I would sit and watch him in his stroller. I'd rock the stroller, but I wouldn't touch him. He made weird (scary) noises. He had seizures that stressed me out. He couldn't hear me or see me (I thought).
The night I was assigned to the over-night shift, one of our team members who'd taken the night shift EVERY night said "we need someone to sleep on the floor (on a matress) next to Jean-- he has to be in between me & one other person so he doesn't roll off the bed at night. My first thought: "just keep quiet Anna, let someone else volunteer." It scared me to think of sleeping next to him. But as the night drew closer, no one volunteered and I reluctantly took the place beside Jean. I asked the doctor (pictured in the pink shirt below) what to do overnight to care for him. She said very plainly, "I'd love him, and rub his back. Make him feel safe by your touch. Give him tenderness to nurture his needs. He'll be fine, just reach out and keep a hand on him."

Lights were out sometime in the 8 o'clock hour, and by 9:15 I was seriously suffering. He sounded like he was choking every few breaths. He had a seizure. He kept rolling on his stomach and burying his face into the matress. I'd roll him back on his side or his back and he'd flop right back. I was afraid he would smother himself. Plus, I was scared to touch him because of his scabies outbreak-- I didn't want to catch it. So, seriously, I slept with a bottle of purell next to me and I lathered my hands after EACH TIME I touched this kid. So that meant no continual touch from me-- just corrective touch. I maybe slept a total of an hour that night. I was sure he'd die on my watch. And I was sure I'd get scabies if I touched him too much. I was so devastated by the grip these ugly thoughts had on my heart. I think part of my lack of sleep was me purely wrestling with God. It was ugly! I was ugly!

Then morning came, and Jean had lived through the night. I changed his diaper and put him back in his stroller and off we went for the day. Somehow I felt bonded to this boy, even though I was still rather cold to him. I think I wanted to love him better, so just kept staying with him hoping my heart would soften. A visiting doctor arrived around lunch and commented that Jean really needed to be touched. Just from doing an evaluation Jean had grabbed onto the doctor's finger and wouldn't let go. The doc explained he was starved for love and human touch and he encouraged me to do so. For the next few hours, I conceded to touching Jean-- but only on his legs cuz I didn't see any scabies marks there. I gently massaged his calves and stroked his knee. I talked sweetly to him and tried to gently love him.

Around 4, the other doctor (who'd advised me the night before) came and asked me if Jean had been held today. Embarrassed, I said- "well, I've been rubbing his legs for the last 3 hrs." She asked directly, "have you taken him out of his stroller at all today?" Fully ashamed of myself, I had to admit "no." She immediately picked him up and embraced this little boy and held him for the rest of the night, and all the next day.
That night, laying in bed, I was broken over my own sin. My goal-verse for this trip was Luke 6:36 "You must be compassionate, just as your Father is compassionate." And I recognized that in the case of Jean, I had failed MISERABLY! I was scared to touch him. Why? 1) Because I let fear, not love, rule my heart. And 2) because I was afraid I'd get scabies. And why would that be a big deal? Its treatable. Well, I saw I have an idol in my life I didn't know about: coveting my things more than God. I just moved to a new house. I just bought a new matress & new sheets. And I have 3 dogs. I didn't want scabies in or on any of those things. If I didn't have those "things" I would have cared far less if I'd gotten scabies. So I neglected a child who was in critical need of nurturing because of my STUFF & MY OWN COMFORT. (Lord forgive me!)

I was sick to my stomach (and still am). God gave me a beautiful opportunity to embody His love and compassion, and I said NO. :( As I processed more and more the weight of my sin, I kept thinking: "Jesus would have touched that boy. Jesus would have held him tight. Jesus would have whispered love into his ears whether Jean could hear it or not. I did NOT reflect Jesus to this little boy." OH GOD, how sorry I am. I feel so ugly inside, knowing the hardness of my heart.

I will regret this failing for the rest of my days.
But even as I cry writing this, reliving the shame, I have to cling to the promise from God that "He who began a good work in me will be faithful to complete it" (Philippians 1:6). Over the last year, God has stretched me & grown me in the area of mercy and showing love to others in need. Its been a hard road, for I had a very cold heart, but I can look back even now and see how far I've come. The "lesson of Jean" was a major speed-bump in the process of refining my character & in maturing me as an ambassador for Christ. But it brought conviction. It brought mourning for my own sin. And it brought trust that I am still "in progress" and God is not giving up on me! I just hate that this little boy was neglected as part of my process.

Pray for Jean. Pray that he would experience the tangible love of Christ from his care-givers. Pray for me, that God uses this failing to continue softening my heart towards those He loves.


CPGM said...

Thank you for writing this.

Missy said...

I hear you. I feel you. I can relate to every word you said. That was me. That is me. I am so thankful that God promises to continue that good work he started in us, but I will never be ok with the fact that others have to suffer in the process. :( I love you.

Amanda said...

Anna, thank you for your transparency and thank you for taking the time to write all of this out. These situations do show us what we value and don't value in life. There was a man on our trip that loved Jean more than any other child he had met. For me, I struggled, like you. I wasn't afraid of "catching" anything as I have held and touched worse, I just didn't know how to relate to him at all. I was afraid to love or give to something that couldn't respond in turn at all. I just couldn't "see" Jean the way others could.

For what it's worth, you sacrificed a nigh of sleep to watch over him and that is worthy. God sees that. Thank you for all you did for the "least of these". I always say that these trips to visit them change us the most. We think WE are going to be a blessing to them, but almost always THEY are the blessing to us.

Leticia Ana said...

This honesty is why I love you, anna melvin! praying for you. glad you got to experience this despite it being hard.

Anita Goriel said...

Thank you for being SO honest Anna! Seriously, this whole story about Jean's yearning to be loved and your conviction has made me literally weep as I read your blog. The Lord has been SO gracious to reveal that to you, and I too struggle with "contracting" things by touch and want to surrender that to Jesus b/c I want to love like Jesus does! But like Amanda wrote, you sacrificed that night, and it was difficult and the Lord saw that and found you worthy to be corrected because He loves you!!

Katie said...

Anna, i am so sorry you and jean both suffered through your spiritual growth that day. God has used my own children to reveal my ugliness in the past. I praise Him for allowing me to see it before it was too late. I love you and thank you for sharing.