I watched her out of the corner of my eye as she saw me for the first time. Her dark eyes grew bigger and she shrieked a little and tugged on her friend as she pointed me out. Me, a very yellow person amidst a throng of dark skin.
I have heard more people call me yellow than white.
As I walked through the market with its array of colors and smells – in the midday heat every smell is highly exaggerated and, more often than not, a bit nauseating – I watched her watching me. She kept herself tucked behind stalls and people as she curiously followed me.
The Nigerian friend I was with stopped to buy rice – a laborious task as one sifts through mounds of rice piled high on a mat and removes stones and other undesired items and then fills a bowl to measure and then pours into a bag one has brought from home. Here is one thing I have learned; nothing is simple and straightforward in this country.
While my friend bent low over her rice I made eye contact for the first time with this little girl. Our eyes locked for a moment, and then she looked to the left, and then to her right, as if trying to figure out who I was looking at. Her eyes came back to mine and she grinned a shy little grin before hiding herself behind some people.
This process repeated itself several times over, her never quite believing that I would look at her. I waved and she looked around to see who I was waving at, before realizing it was at her I was looking. That shy smile crossed her face over and over again.
My heart felt drawn to this sweet, shy, curious child, and I took a few steps in her direction wanting to kneel in front of her, eye to eye, and let her know she was loved. But as I walked in her direction she shrieked and ran away.
Through the rest of the market she would show herself at various places. While other children would come up and shake hands or run their curious fingers over my skin or through my hair she would never venture closer, but she was never far away.
My gentle coaxing did no good. She was intrigued – interested – but nothing could convince her to come closer to me.
As I thought about that it struck me that this, as in imperfect as it may be, is a picture of what Christ wants with me. He wants me to draw close to Him. To know Him. To trust Him. He came to give not just life, but abundant life. He wants us to live free from the fears that this world wants to chain us down with.
That same night as I showered and, again, watched the swirl of dirty water wash from my feet and down the drain, I thought of Jesus washing the disciple’s feet. Until you have walked a dusty dirt road it is hard to wrap one’s head around what the disciple’s feet might actually have looked like as Christ bent over and washed them clean. I have never walked any great distance on the red dirt roads, and yet every day my feet are impressively dirty.
As I looked at my own feet and the dirty water I realized for the first time that, had I been in the disciple’s place, I too would have struggled to let the Son of God touch my feet. Physical dirt is a temporary shame, but it is so easy for us to see with our temporal eyesight. Spiritual dirt – our sin – is of much greater magnitude than our dirty feet and yet Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. He wants us to live free from the shame of sin that the world wants us to be held hostage to.
Christ wants us to live free from fear and shame, two things that so easily enslave us. The enslaving of fear keeps us from His presence, drawing nearer to Him and trusting His goodness. The enslaving of shame keeps us from allowing Him to do His perfect work in us – He already knows our shortcomings and failures and yet He still loves us. Mark 6 talks about how Jesus was moved with compassion when He saw the crowds.
He has overcome the world and greater is He who is in us than he who is in the world.
|| pictures taken at a different market than where I saw my little friend, the rice in these pictures are on tables in a basket. I wish you could smell these pictures though. You should be happy you can’t. ||