In a World Where You Can Be Anything Be Kind
“You know(?)… I love you, Ms. Rachel. I’d do anything for you.”
These are the words of affection offered to me just last week by a twelve-year-old girl at *Pringle Home for Children, in St Mary, Jamaica. As she began, “Rene” swung her arm around me and rested it on my shoulder, using the weight of which to gently pulled me to a stop (we were walking side-by-side) and looked me dead in the eyes, holding a slight smile on her face as she communicated the fullness of what this message meant to her at the time.
This beautiful young girl is one of top in her class, an independent thinker and has natural gifts for leadership. She is fiercely strong-willed and out-spoken, rarely backing down from advocating for her version of truth and justice. While on the surface she seems to have built a rather tough exterior, she is as much all these things as she is also incredibly loving and gentle. As I have observed even more frequently than I have been at the receiving end myself, she is carefully observant, thoughtful and full of compassion. She is loyal and wholeheartedly caring to those she lets in.
Now, if I had to offer you a list of the many things I’ve learned so far here at Pringle Home for Children, a new-found respect for parenting/parents and caregivers would be blurted almost immediately from my lips. With this respect in mind, the fact that she is twelve and teeters the teenage years, I know that I would be remiss to think that at some point (on many future occasions, realistically) she will entirely dismiss these sentiments and we will struggle to find our way back to “I love you, Ms Rachel. I’d do anything for you!” again. As every caregiver before me knows too well, this is just part of the human teenage terrain.
But what matters is that she meant it at the time, and took many steps in the process of sharing to try to ensure that I fully received the weight of her message to me. You see, or well I saw, that this was her attempt at entering into and fully embracing what it means to love: to do anything! This is after all Jesus’ primary message to his followers: “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13).
In the season of Lent, we are of course thinking a lot about what it means to fully embody (incarnate) Love, and go to all extents in the journey of a life lived in Love. Lent is the season of meditating on the Truth, the best news ever: that God went beyond words and the Word came to us in human form (God came to us as one of us), and through Jesus, Love offered wholeness by entering our brokenness, by living our human experience, confusion, suffering and pain, making pulpable, tangible, true-to-life, a “visible image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15).
In one of the books I’ve been reading this Lent, Bruxy Cavey writes “There is a simplicity to the gospel so that even (and especially) a child can comprehend it. There is also a depth and infinite richness to the gospel, which means that we can all spend the rest of our lives learning, discussing and applying its truths” (from Bruxy’s book Reunion).
Through the girls at Pringle Home for Children, God is teaching me so much. Blessed am I that the most pervasive and powerful of these lessons have been reflection after reflection on what it means to love like Jesus while as a Christ-follower I try to live like Him too.
In this instance with “Rene”, the twelve-year-old who caused me to ponder what it means to love with loyalty, to “do anything” for love (a stance so few of us adults are willing to take, hence Matthew 18: 1-4 and Mark 9: 33 to 37), I got to be the recipient of that kind of love too. She invited me to come face-to-face with an embodied Love, to stop and simply receive, to be the Beloved.
As sisters walking side-by-side together in this part of each other’s journeys at this particular moment in time, we both have the most remarkable, meaning- and life-giving opportunity to not only learn from each other as we ponder together the simplicity and depth of the gospel, but show (teach) each other how it is lived out (by living Love like Jesus). Amid all my striving to find creative, memorable, impactful ways for the girls to discover Jesus in the scriptures and God moving amongst us even now, this time, she/”Rene” – a child(!) – instigated this special moment. Praise God! And so to you my brothers and sister, to the Body in which we are both apart, I ask you to join me in remembering and reflecting: When was the last time you stared embodied Love in the eye? Do you know you are the Beloved, and who was the last person who reminded you of this truth? How can you, for Love’s sake, like Jesus and “Rene” following in His footsteps, abandon your comforts today to likewise make Love pulpable, tangible, true-to-life to someone else? What practical steps can you take this Lent to Love like Jesus? This is after all not only a Lenten message but what it means to be an image-bearer of God, who is Love.
*Pringle Home for Children is a ministry of The United Church in Jamaica and the Cayman Islands (UCJCI), a partner with Global Ministries. Approaching 100 years in ministry, Pringle Home for Children has and continues to provide a loving and nurturing home-away-from-home for girls between the ages of 8 and 18. Pringle Home for Children was and continues its ministry in light of an ever-present need: Sometimes families are unable to function effectively and as a result, the development of the children is affected negatively. When this happens, the Child Protection and Family Services Agency (CPFSA) intervenes, and following a formal legal process, girls that come to Pringle Home do so when the courts have determined she is a Children in Need of Care and Protection. When this happens, we have found that the girls demonstrate fragility in all aspects of their development: psychological, social and moral development – displaying how vulnerable the children have been. Hence, we take our vision and mission seriously in order to meet the needs of these precious children in our care.
Pringle Home for Children’s mission is to provide safety and care in a family-oriented residential atmosphere where past hurts are healed and hope is restored so that the girls and young ladies who call Pringle “Home” may maximize their potential and fulfill their purposes. Pringle Home for Children’s vision, then, is ultimately to transform the lives of hurting children by providing a physically safe, emotionally secure and healthy home environment, while also seeking to develop their faith in God and ultimately restore hope. Pringle Home for Children works towards achieving our vision with and through our network of partners. You can partner with and support the mission and work of Pringle Home for Children by giving through Global Ministries https://www.globalministries.org/pringle_home_for_children and/or by investing in the life of a girl living at Pringle Home for Children via Child (and Elder) Sponsorship https://www.globalministries.org/child_sponsorship
Rachel Pellett serves with the United Church in Jamaica and Cayman Islands. Her appointment is made possible by your gifts to Disciples Mission Fund, Our Church’s Wider Mission, and your special gifts.