By Amy Sondova I once knew a little girl who believed that her dreams were within her grasp. All she had to do was imagine a better tomorrow and it would be so. A dandelion was a beautiful flower and an animal was a magical friend. Off she would romp through her neighborhood greeting everyone who crossed her path, eager to chat with anyone who would give her time.
Chalk drawings on the sidewalk were her special form of art along with painting and drawing. Some days she dreamed of being an artist other days a veterinarian and still other days, it was beyond even her imagination. Her backyard was a far-off land of adventure in which she conducted archaeological digs for dinosaur bones and buried treasure, form secret clubs for girls only (but the boys were eventually allowed to join), and lie out on the grass to stare at the clouds above.
She loved to go to church and wear pretty dresses (although she could have done without the restrictive tights). Coloring pictures of Jesus and friends was always a delight as well as putting money in the offering plate. She loved to sing songs about God, even pretending to read the hymnal when she had not yet learned to read.
Then came children’s church filled with Bible lessons that caused wide-eyed wonder among the crowd. One of the best teachers was a woman named Helen who was a missionary in Haiti. While on furlough, she told stories about her work on the mission field, showed slides of the children there, taught songs in other languages, and let them touch her special Haitian crafts. Jim Elliot, Corrie ten Boom, Amy Carmichael—their lives all came alive for one hour one Sunday a month during children’s church.
As church came to a close, this little girl and the other children would run to “the candy man” to get a hug and a tasty piece of hard candy. It wasn’t just the candy that made him special; it was the horrible polyester suits and the big smile he wore. The candy man was one of a kind. There was also Pappy who didn’t give out candy, but showered the kids in love and attention. When he died, Sunday mornings lost a little bit of their magic.
Life lost a little bit of its magic as she grew. Chalk became something the teachers used to write on blackboards, not a fun drawing medium. Church became less about wide-eyed wonder and more about memorizing the Bible and learning the right words to say to help save friends from the fiery clutches of hell. The candy man died and there was no one to replace him. Helen the missionary went back to Haiti for a few years, but the story of Jim Elliot never ceased to amaze the girl.
The backyard became a place to cry out to God as the chilly air caused goose bumps on her arms. She would stare at the moon and stars marveling at their glory. The universe seemed quiet when the sun set and the moon appeared. It was as if all was as it should be, and yet she felt unrest. Suddenly, church wasn’t a place of refuge, but one of horror–one that held the dark, shameful secrets of her childhood. School wasn’t much better as she felt like she never quite fit in. The razor strayed on her wrist starting a lifelong struggle with self-injury.
It occurred to her that God was not kind, not just, and maybe not even real. Yet she couldn’t deny Him, try as she might. She believed too deeply and imagined far too much. She knew He loved her, even when she believed that He just didn’t like her. As a teenager, she thought her prayers fell on deaf ears. It would be years later until she could look back and recognize the blind faith she once had, faith that was so precious to the heart of God–faith that’s jaded and imperfect now, but yet grows every stronger.
Even now when the world is filled with horror, when life breaks her heart, when people seem less than images of deity, she looks back. Pulling from deep inside her, she remembers the smell of a summer morning after a midnight thunderstorm, the earth was fresh and wet and she knew she would find a dinosaur bone that day. The feel of chalk in her pudgy hands as she wrote, “I love Jesus” across the public sidewalk is a comfort. She remembers the hot macadam under her bare feet as she romped about cradling her best friend, a guinea pig named Darcy, to visit all the neighbors.
She had a relentless faith in God, in people, and in herself and though her tender heart filled with sorrow at times, soon her joy melted that sorrow. She was a little girl who thought and dreamed that anything, absolutely anything, was possible. Now that girl is a woman in her late 20’s wondering, hoping, praying, and believing she is a still a bit of the girl she once was. She wonders if it is possible to open wide her heart to the limitless possibilities of God once again, to believe as she once did, and if she can ever reclaim her child-like faith which made her heart burn so brightly. She will never be that child again, but the girl she was once deeply influences the woman that she is today.