In January of 2002, I visited India for the third time. The country had not changed, the people were just as hospitable as ever, and the need for God was just as great, but something was different. Whereas before I had gone with groups of 100 and my goal was to plant the gospel into as many weary, wounded hearts as I could, this time I was there with a group of only 20 and I was there to connect. I was going to meet the people, to spend time with them, to understand their culture better than I had before, and to learn to love it more deeply. This was to be accomplished in the best way possible - through living in an orphanage.
I was there for five days before I knew her name. Gowthami. Amongst the swarm of children clamoring for attention, love, a smile, one little girl outwardly laughed and played with the rest, yet inwardly waited for the time to make herself known. She was a vivacious little girl, full of energy and spirit. At only six years old, she was a leader, and those in the orphanage who were younger knew that she was in charge. Yet inside of every leader there is still a child longing for a hand to hold and a shoulder to cry on, and for Gowthami, six years old and fatherless, with a mother who had had to give her up for lack of provision, this need was greater than most can imagine. Among the twenty Americans there that January, she singled me out. I was the one to whom she would give her affection, her love, her trust. She was waiting for her moment to appeal.
"Acka." I felt a small hand slip through mine as I stood watching the baptisms, tears glistening in my eyes. I looked down and saw a small girl, one of the smallest in the orphanage, her big eyes looking at me, full of hopelessness, but still sparking a flicker of hope. She was wearing a pink dress with a broken zipper and tightly clutching an orange in her right hand. "Acka." She said it again and I heard the request in that one word. I reached down and lifted her up, placing her on my hip and holding her close. We remained that way for a long time. She chatted with those around us, but kept her arms firmly clasped about my neck. "What is your name?" I asked her. "Gowthami," she answered. Gowthami. Such a small child and such big lessons she taught me, how special she made me feel. From that moment when she slipped her sticky fingers into my hand, Gowthami and I were inseparable. Not that I didn't try to share my attention equally with all the children, but it was impossible. Everywhere I went, Gowthami went too. Whenever I sat, she sat with me. When I slept at night, Gowthami slept curled next to me. If she awoke in the night, it was I who she reached for. When she learned something new, I was the one she ran to tell. Throughout the next week she rarely left my side, and I loved every moment with her.
Isn't that what God wants from us? He is there, waiting to hold our hand, to comfort us when we cry. He stands ready for us, waiting for the moment of our deepest need when we reach out our tiny hand to His and say "Father." He hears the request in that one word, sees the hope and hopelessness in our eyes, and gently picks us up and holds us close. The decision to remain that way is up to us, but He wants us to love Him, to single Him out as the recipient of our affection. Will we follow where He leads, sleep in the shelter of His wings, and share with Him our every joy and trial? If my time with Gowthami is any indication, then there is nothing that would make Him happier. So let's learn a lesson from a little child. Let's be Gowthamis to the Father.
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