“Do you know that I’ve been in prison?”
Her eyes flicker downward with the question, just for a second. Baring your heart before a stranger is never easy. But here she sits, at my kitchen table where I meet with all prospective new volunteers. Courageously bringing her past into the present, she knows that her honesty may be rewarded with rejection. Her quiet spirit embodies the grace of a familiar One though, and I love her already.
“Yeah, that’s ok.” I say, smiling. What she doesn’t know is that my heart is smiling too. She’s exactly who I’ve been praying for.
She proceeds to tell me her story. A difficult background. A series of really bad decisions. How she lost everyone and everything. Then how God found her, right there in her mess. Kind of like he finds me. Kind of like he finds all of us. And the rest is beautiful – a story of redemption. She tears up while she speaks of His goodness. I hold back tears too, thanking God already for sending her to us.
Because the truth of the matter is, I don’t just want her to volunteer here – I NEED her to. I need her to bring her journey – the story of how God scooped her up and made her lovely and whole and complete – to my kids. I need them to see that it can happen. I need them to know, not just to wish, but to really know that transformation is possible in Jesus. She is a living, breathing marker of hope for me and for our family.
And once she becomes a part of us, she’ll be the first to show up and the last to leave. She’ll always be ready to serve, because she knows the impact she can make. She won’t waste any time, because she knows how precious each moment is, especially to kids as vulnerable as ours.
And when one of my girls runs away, hits the streets and rejects our love, she’ll be the first to tell me not to give up. “She’ll get it one day,” she’ll whisper, hugging my broken heart. “Don’t be discouraged.” And I’ll listen to her because she knows. She really knows. She was that girl.
So when we finish our interview, I’ll go print out the results of her criminal background check. I’ll push down hard on the stapler to keep all the pages together. And I’ll tuck it away in the back of the filing cabinet, where it belongs.
And I’ll pray that one day, some of my babies will be just like her. That they’ll walk in grace and peace and humility. That Christ in them will be so evident, their lives will yell “Death is defeated!” to all who see. That they’ll be so changed by Jesus’ mercy that nothing – no obstacle, no background check, no fear of rejection will stop his love from pouring in and up and out of them, running through their fingers to touch everyone they meet.