Once upon a time, there was a little girl who lived in a home that I was volunteering with. Only thirteen, she was a ballerina with beautiful brown skin and curly hair. Of all that we did we most enjoyed singing together. ‘Price tag’ by Jessie J was our jam.
In all my years of working with children, Ballerina was the first and only child who made me cry with her behavior. It started out great, but out of the blue, I became her piñata to pound. Every day, she would pretend like she couldn’t hear anything I said and would make wounding comments about me, and often my dark skin, in front of a room filled with people. Each night, I’d tuck her into bed, pray with her and walk back home with tears running down my face. Day after day I’d build up my courage to walk into the house knowing I’d be wounded again. I knew this wasn’t about me, though. Ballerina was being bullied in school about her brown skin and I was bearing the brunt of it.
There is much to say about relationships. No one has it all figured out and we probably never will. Whether we like it or not, relationships aren’t going to go away. What I do have figured out, is this.
We expect more than what other people can be or give. Truth is, no one can give us everything we long for in our life. The kindest thing I can do is acknowledge that we are human and are bound to mess up.
We must be merciful when people make mistakes. Why? Because Jesus never gave me what I deserved. And since we are called to be like Him, I don’t have the right to even the score with what they do or don’t deserve.
We must give in the same measure that we receive. God put his love on the line for me by giving up his Son when I was unlovable. To add to that, He is gracious when I am stubborn.
The love of God can blot everything wretched that I have faced in my life, offences included. Let’s get personal. If I choose not to love, it is not my offender’s fault. A person who refuses to love doesn’t know the first thing about God, because God is love—so you can’t know him if you don’t love. The Bible says that, not me.
Going back to the story, I exclusively depended on Him for patience and love so that I could love Ballerina every day. Every time I prayed, I forgave, and the one who benefited the most out of it was me. It takes a lot less to forgive than it does to hold a grudge. After trying hard not to quit, my stint with the home was finally over and I had one last night of devotion to lead.
For weeks, the story of Jesus washing his disciple’s feet was pressing on my heart; not just to read but to literally do. “How am I to ask our family to wash each other’s feet when no one sees eye to eye?”, I wondered. That night, we gathered in the family room, and courageously, I read from the Bible.
“So, if I, the Master and Teacher, washed your feet, you must now wash each other’s feet. I’ve laid down a pattern for you. What I’ve done, you do. I’m only pointing out the obvious… If you understand what I’m telling you, act like it—and live a blessed life.”
As we considered this story the atmosphere in the room changed and the reverence was tangible. I stepped up to go first. I walked up to Ballerina and asked if I could wash her feet. It was the most humbling thing to do. It felt like I was saying sorry even though I was the ‘victim’. That was the point! A relationship is at stake and someone must try to fix it. Does it matter whose fault it is? Jesus treasured me enough to disregard my fault when he chose to be nailed to the cross instead of me. I corrected my perspective and I washed her feet knowing it was the least I could do. Our family with 8 kids, who didn’t go a day without a brawl, washed each other’s feet because Jesus said so. We said goodbye a few days later but I believe we all learned some solid lessons that night.
“Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another.”