An eight-year-old girl broke my heart on the metro last year. Her name was Briana.She had a beautiful face that was matched by her friendliness. She immediately started talking with me; and her mom, who was a couple of seats away, didn’t seem to mind.
We talked about a lot of topics during our 15-minute ride together, and the majority of them were fairly heavy. Here are a few of the quotes from the conversation (I wrote them down after she got off at her stop):
- Her thoughts on Jesus: “I go to church and they sing songs and talk about Jesus, but I don’t know who He is.”
- Her favorite TV show: Empire, a nighttime soap opera that’s rated TV-14. She said, “I close my eyes during a nasty parts.”
- On getting bullied: “I get bullied by other kids at my day program, but I don’t mind. The only time it bothers me is when they say I’m dumb, because I know I’m smart.”
- When I asked if she was doing well in school, she replied, “Is an F a bad grade?”
- What her apartment is like: “I don’t like our apartment because it’s nasty. There’s pee and stuff in the hallway.”
- What her five-year-old friend said: “I have a five-year-old friend who says she’s gonna end up on the streets one day because her mom hates her.”
- Thoughts on her dad: “My dad has anger issues. My sister and I don’t want to be around him. He whoops us even when we’re good.”
- Her friend’s thoughts on God: “My friend said that God is bad because He likes to kill people.”
I’m sure we all feel sorry for Briana when we read those excerpts. I wonder how we’ll feel about her 15 years from now.
What Briana’s Future Might Look Like
Briana might “whoop” her kids even when they’re behaving well. Maybe she will still live in a nasty apartment with urine on the floor. Maybe she will think she’s dumb because she made a bunch of Fs and nobody managed to catch her before she slipped through the cracks of the public education system. Maybe her kids will watch TV shows with “nasty parts,” rather than Veggie Tales. Maybe she still won’t know who Jesus is, and maybe she’ll think God is angry and mean like her dad was.
I hope none of that happens, but the chances are high. Most of us grow up and live the life that was modeled for us. If that happens, it will be easy to judge Briana one day.
The Needy One
If success in this world is defined by how well socialized and financially stable we are, then Briana is probably a lost cause, and the rest of us are just awesome. But that’s not how it works. Jesus said:
“If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them gets lost, what will he do? Won’t he leave the ninety-nine others in the wilderness and go to search for the one that is lost until he finds it?
If you read that parable and you hear a heartwarming parable about Briana and lost people like her, then you missed the point. That story is about you. You are the lost sheep who was just as needy as Briana ever will be. You are the one who needed the good Shepherd to leave the others behind to come get you (again).
You and Briana are in the same boat, but it’s probably hard for you to see that.
You’ve worked hard for what you’ve got. People respect you. You can buy things. You have options. Need is something you successfully avoid every day. Briana may never have that advantage, and as a result, she has an advantage over you. If Briana grows up and realizes she needs Jesus, it’s going to hit a nerve with her in a way it may have never hit you. By that point, need is all she will have ever known. An unconditional gift of eternal riches will be a welcome reprieve.
“Jesus said to his disciples, ‘I tell you the truth, it is very hard for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of Heaven'” (Matthew 19:23). We can grieve for Briana, yes — every child deserves a life better than the one Briana has — but we should only grieve with respect to the things she needs in this world. When it comes to the more important, eternal things, we need as much as she ever did — perhaps more.