Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you; therefore, he will rise up to show you compassion. For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him! Isaiah 30:18 (NIV)
The tall, thin, harried woman loomed in our doorway, hands on her hips. “Debbie! What on earth are you doing?” I knew I was in trouble. Earlier, in the dining hall, we first grade girls listened wide-eyed as the big sister told us about rest hour rules. “You have to stay in your room on your bed and rest for two hours on Saturday and Sunday afternoons. On school days it’s only forty-five minutes, but if you disobey, you get smacked on the hand with a hairbrush.” There are lots of confusing rules in this place. Dark thoughts whirled through my mind as I swirled brown gravy through my mashed potatoes. Let’s hope I can remember everything I’m told. I sure don’t want to get punished. Resting on our beds after lunch my new roommates and I chatted in low voices to pass the time. Soon the auntie in charge walked by. Poking her head through our door frame she said sternly, “Girls, this is rest hour. You shouldn’t be talking.” Then she added, “I hope I don’t have to remind you again.” As she turned to leave I noticed the wooden hairbrush in her right hand. “Shhhh!” I whispered to my roommates, “Don’t anybody get us in trouble!” “Okay, Okay!” the other girls promised. No one uttered another peep.
Dorm Rules Different from Home Rules
On our mission station in southern Nigeria, Mom didn’t make us lie on our beds in the heat of the tropical sun. She told us, “Play inside, quiet like a bunny, so you don’t wake Baby Grant.” I knew how to choose quiet toys. Picking up Bonnie Sue and soft, cuddly Teddy, we started a private tea party, sipping ever-so-quietly, just like I did with Mommy back home. The weary auntie walked by on the way to her apartment, her rounds completed. Pausing at our doorway, she caught my eye and I thought, I’m glad I’m being quiet like she told me. I smiled at her. She frowned back, pinched her eyebrows together, and pointed the wooden tool at me. “What on earth are you doing? You’re supposed to be sleeping, not playing!” Her tennis shoes squeaked on the cement floor as she strode to my bed. “I warned you!” Her grating whisper sent a chill down my spine. “Hand me your toys.” Whisking up Dolly and Teddy she huffed, “Now I have to take these away.” Then she disappeared down the hall.
Why Was I in Trouble?
I fell back on my bed as a volcano erupted in my stomach. What did I do wrong?
From head to toe, my body quaked. They aren’t just toys, I need them to comfort me! For the next half hour I lay as still as I could but my legs twitched and mind raced. How could she take my things? I followed the rules and was being quiet. That’s not fair! At long last a big sister called down the hall, “Rest hour’s over. Everyone up now!” “What should I do?” I asked my roommates. “How can I get my dolly and teddy back?” Nobody answered and I wondered, Will I get a spanking? Soon another little girl, Rebecca, pointed out the auntie for me. Then we marched alone down the hall to the big, brown cupboard. Grasping the door knob, the harried lady turned to me, “You know you need to sleep for the first hour. No talking, reading, or playing.”
Clarifying the Rules
“I was being quiet,” I whispered, staring down at a smudge on her white sneakers. “I didn’t know I had to sleep.” Clasping my sweaty hands behind my back, I tried to stop their trembling. “Of course, you must,” she said. “But during the second hour you can read.” She handed me my babies and snapped the cupboard door shut. I hugged them close, tears filling my eyes. “I’m sorry! I won’t be naughty again.” As I scampered back to the first-grade hall, she called out, “No running in the dorm!” My pace slowed to long strides. Heart pounding I neared the safety of my room. My friend Rebecca caught up with me and asked, “What happened? D’you get your stuff back?” “Yes!” I smiled. “And I didn’t get the hairbrush.” Latching her tiny arms around my waist she hugged me tightly. “Oh, goody! You got lucky!” “Whew!” I nodded and sucked in a big gulp of air. “Yes, I did!”
Was I wrong? Did I deserve that consequence? On my first day at KA I didn’t understand that rest hour meant lying still and attempting to sleep. It felt traumatic to have my security objects taken away with no word of how or when they would be returned. In that era staff members were exhausted, overworked, and overwhelmed with caring for too many little children. Few of the dorm aunts and uncles had training for raising children. This vignette isn’t meant to cast blame nor issue blanket forgiveness. For the next few months I’ll be combing through the Bible to clearly understand God’s view of sin and redemption. I’ll continue to share with you as I’m learning. God’s truth is what sets us free – not simply thinking positively or changing perspectives. And I’m looking forward to finding more freedom.
Link It to Your Life
Was there a time in your life when you were wrongfully accused or punished? How has God shown compassion to you despite injustice in this world?
Prayer: Father, thank you that you care about my troubles, and you rise up to help me when life seems unfair.