About six years ago, I went to the Poconos for a winter retreat with my church. It was a small, simple gathering of about forty kids.
We were not yet teens but slowly coming to realize ourselves as more than just children.
Since I was new to the church, a few friends of mine gave me a basic overview on the kids of our youth group. I can still remember a few random faces and the descriptions that went with them:
“Oh, that’s so-and-so. He’s such a pussy; he wet the bed at last year’s retreat.” or “That’s the kid that kicked so-and-so’s butt cuz he bothered his sister.”
Yet the one that haunts me with such clarity to this day is of a little girl, probably in the third grade at the time. With uneven locks of greasy hair adorning her mishappen face, she was constantly bombarded with ridicule from the heartless and unsympathetic. She was born with a physical ailment that affected her coordination and altered her facial features. It would be almost a daily retreat tradition for us to yell “retard” as she passed by on her way to the chapel.
Yet, as the final day of our retreat neared, we all prepared our hearts for the most emotional night…the night in which voices would cry, hands would be raised, and eyes would flow freely without considering what the person next to you would think the following day. Yet, instead of pouring our hearts out in a scattered groups on the floor as expected, our pastor told us to stay in our seats for a moment.
After about three minutes of composed silence, he said with calm, monotone sincerity,
“Who here loves Jesus?”
Everyone raised their hand; some even shouted small cries of their devotion.
“Who here really loves Jesus?” he repeated.
Again, everyone raised their arms, some fists clenched, accompanied by countless amens and hallelujahs. Then, as the silence reentered the room, he slowly produced a seven-inch long, steel stake from behind his back. With eyes of ice, he said,
“Then those of you that really love Jesus please come to the front of the room…and suffer his fate.”
A confused and scared silence congested the air of the room. No one dared make a sound, even a cough, for fear that everyone else may look at him. It seemed as though everything had been frozen in a heavy fog that engulfed the room. Watches seemed to have stopped. Eyes ceased to blink. The only thing that moved was the flowing perspiration as we all waited for something to happen. The pastor clenched the stake high above his head.
“Who here is willing to place their hand out for this stake to puncture it? Who? WHO?!”
A small, scraping sound arose from the back row. It was the sound of a little girl, whimpering and stumbling, slowly rising from her chair. She broke the expectations of every person that had looked down on her, the retard, the ugly retard, just as Jesus had been resurrected in spite of the Romans’ hatred of him. She bore the weight of everyone’s stares and snickers as she limped up the aisle to the front of the room, just as Jesus had arduously carried his cross. Slowly lifting her ugly head to the pastor, she muttered,
Tears coursed from the pastor’s eyes as he asked her with fervent conviction,
“Are you willing to pierce your hands for Jesus? Are you?!”
Her face was streaked with the rivers of tears, not emotional tears like that of all of ours had been, but spiritual tears flowing from her dull eyes. She slowly peeled her arms from her sides and lifted them to the man before her.
Not much changed the next day. She didn’t miraculously lose her physical defects. She was still made fun of…mostly by the kids that weren’t at the last night’s service. And I’m sure that if I asked any of the kids that were in that room the final night if they ever made fun of anyone ever again that they would all say yes. But the fact of the matter is, that occurence will stay with all of us, the teachers, the kids, everyone, for the rest of our lives.
Author Unknown Please comment if you know the author so credit can be awarded.