How could just a smile be so powerful? What was it that made my heart feel as if intensified rays from the sun had just burst through my dark world, penetrating my soul? She was not pretty at all, and yet something about her was beautiful, something that went beyond externals.
I had been rejected, hurt, and afraid for so long. Trudging through life stooped over, carrying heavy bricks of shame and guilt on my back was normal. Loneliness and darkness and self pity were constant companions, they were my friends. Nobody wanted me. No one could possibly want someone as ugly inside and out as me. Yet, what was this forceful shaft of hope that offered acceptance with just a facial gesture of kindness?
She wore a white tee-shirt emblazoned with two simple red words; "Jesus Cares". It was hard not to keep staring each time the carousel came back around. I took root in the spot I stood; mesmerized by seeing her rise and drop so gracefully on the wooden steed she rode, going around again and again. Time and space were as frozen as the arctic tundra. Each time she made the turn, her eyes sought my face to impart joy through her glorious smile that kept saying: "I care". And each time I read the words on the shirt, over and over; "Jesus cares."
Could it be that someone really does care about me? I've been let down, disappointed too many times. But her eyes said something different, something genuine, and potent. I had heard that Jesus loves me, but I'd never experienced it.
Finally, the hour long moment came to a conclusion. The merry-go-round was stopping. What should I do? I had to know what this power was that had shot beams of promise into my inner being. She walked towards me with the same glow on her face, the same smile, even the fiery eyes of compassion were still ablaze with yeses. Then she spoke.
"Are you going to ride?"
"uh...um...no, I just enjoy watching the others."
"I saw you standing alone, looking down and blue, and thought maybe you would like some company."
Did she want something from me? Why would a complete stranger care if I was depressed? But her eyes just kept confirming her smile. Those two words continued echoing in my mind; Jesus Cares. Then she asked; "Would you like to get a soda with me?"
"Um, ah...sure, I guess so."
I couldn't walk away from an offer to fill this deep need that had been crushing my spirit under a monolithic mountain of pain; a loveless void, locked, unreachable in an inner chamber of myself. Yet, somehow the barrier had been breeched.
We sat at a small, round table sporting an umbrella for shade. But nothing could diminish the radiance that shone from my hero's heart underneath the canopy. Reaching into a shoulder bag she withdrew a white Bible, set it on the table, and opened its pages.
"Do you mind if I share something with you?"
"Well sure, go ahead."
My new friend showed how Jesus understood and accepted a Samaritan woman at a well, whose character was tainted. The good news began to ignite a burning hope in my heart. Jesus Cares! She told of how Jesus loves the unlovable, and accepts the outcasts of society. Jesus Cares! I wasn't so different from Zacchaeus, an unlovable and dishonest tax collector and sinner, who found forgiveness and became a better person. Jesus Cares!
Joy bubbled up to overflow within me, like a jolt of electric happiness surging through my veins. Jesus died for them and for me, because He cares. He saves us, then leads the way to victory over the ugliness of the world. While on this journey, with Jesus as guide, the unsightly become beautiful, and the worthless grow to be fruitful.
Lifting my face to the heavens I cried thank you to God for His love. My eyes became fuzzy with wetness, spilling down my hot cheeks, dripping onto our now joined hands across the table.
Bowing my head at the table, I invited Jesus to come into my heart and bring His light. He chased away all the darkness that had weighed on my life for so long. The clouds had parted, the Son was shining. And for the first time I knew what it means to be a true child of God, to be accepted and loved, all because Jesus cares.
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