Fists clenched, the red-faced boy sucked in breath and pulled himself up as tall as he could. The teasing arrows had found their mark. Wounded pride governed any reason he might have mustered; deep down he knew he stood little chance against the bullies.
“Little Red is really “red”, now,” sputtered one of the boys as he danced around the smaller target. The other ruffians chimed in with taunts of their own.
John Little gritted his teeth and swung his right fist as hard has he could in the direction of the closest offender, but the quick-footed boy side stepped and John tumbled to the ground under his own momentum.
The raucous laughter was as abrasive as the dirt on John’s palms as he scrambled quickly to right himself. He tried hard to contain the tears that were forming, but he knew it was hopeless. He had no choice but to run away as fast as he could, trying to out distance both the stone and verbal missiles hurled at his back.
Later, John’s mother tried to comfort her son as she washed his hands and dried his tears. “A wise soldier always knows when to stand and when to retreat,“ she mused, as she swiped a tear from his cheek and tossled his curly, auburn hair.
“I can’t change my name and I can’t change my hair! I’ll be called “Little Red”
forever. I wish I had never been born!”
“Now, now. God knew what He was doing when He made you like you are and when He sent you to our family. A man is more than his name and red is a special color to God.”
A seed was planted in the heart of John Little that day, which his mother and father would water with the Word of God and nourish with steadfast prayer. As John grew in stature, he also grew to accept himself and his name.
His resolve to handle daily challenges whether from bullies or the broader struggles of life was done with the grit of a seedling breaking through hard soil, reaching deep within, sending roots down as anchors against life’s changing currents.
John blossomed and flourished. He learned life’s lessons through the lens of scripture - suffering produces fruit, especially when one stays close to the Vinedresser and submits to His pruning. He grew to embrace his name and the color of his hair as God’s gifts to him for sharing the gospel.
“John Little’s my name. Some people call me ‘Red’”, he’d offer by way of introduction. Then, like one polishing a ripe, juicy apple to give to the hearer, he’d share his testimony.
“God used lots of little things to do mighty works. He used a young boy with five
small stones to fell a giant a whole army feared. He used a little boy with two fish and a few loaves of bread to feed thousands. . .even had leftovers. . .”
Then, he would open his Bible and show the person how Jesus’ red blood took away God’s wrath to save him and everyone. Like gentle arrows, he’d pray for God’s Word to pierce the heart of the listening sinner, as it had his, and open it to God’s gift of grace.
“Do you know the best thing about having the name ’Red’ Little?” He’d smile as he’d turn to Revelation. “It’s written in the Lamb’s book of life.”
John particularly loved sharing the gospel with people who had deprecating nicknames like “Wimp” or “Baldy” or “Mousey”, because they could relate to what it meant to have a stinging sobriquet. The transformation was always a delight to him when people saw themselves as God saw them.
“Your adoption papers into the family of God will say ’son’ and ’heir’ of the King. So, from now on you can be called ’Prince’, if you like. It doesn‘t matter really, because God is more interested in your heart and what you do in His name.”
The Little ‘Red’ seedling, trampled and bruised in the beginning, became a mighty tree for God, bearing much fruit in his lifetime and planting many new seeds along the way. He left this world a richer garden then he found and now, in the presence of the Master Gardener, is enjoying the rewards of the harvest.
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