I will never forget a story I read in The Times Picayune (the New Orleans newspaper) a few years ago. The story was of a young child (we will call him Chris) who had been abandoned by his father in a Metairie neighborhood.
As the story was told, Chris was regularly locked out of his house while his father both used and dealt drugs. On one of those evenings, as Chris stood outside in the mosquitoes, he heard his father talking to his girlfriend about getting rid of him. A few moments later, Chris was put into a car and carried across the city to a neighborhood. The father stopped the car, reached over and opened the door, and told him to get out. Like any terrified child, Chris began crying and begging his father to not leave him. His father punched him in the face, pushed him out of the car, and drove away. The paper reported that Chris chased the car, screaming apologies to his father, until the car was out of sight.
After wandering unfamiliar streets for a couple of hours, the frightened child approached the home of complete strangers. The resident of the home opened the door to find a scared and shattered little boy. Chris asked the lady if he could use the bathroom, then proceeded to tell his story. The Sheriff was called, Chris was picked up, and the father was later arrested.
As I read that story, my heart broke. My anger raged at the father. Yet, at the same time, I wanted to grab Chris and hold him tightly. What would happen to that young child? Where would he go? Who would take care of him?
The next morning, the cover story pictured Chris walking down an aisle at a local Wal-mart accompanied by his aunt and Jefferson Parish Sherif Harry Lee. The article noted that the aunt would be taking temporary custody of the boy and that the reason they were in Wal-Mart was that Sherif Lee was providing the boy with a shopping spree for clothes and even some toys.
What do you think the picture on the cover looked like? Well, it was not that of a child skipping through Wal-Mart on a shopping spree. Instead, the boy was pictured walking in front of the sheriff and his aunt, but looking back. My heart was gripped by the news that as the boy walked through the store, he was constantly looking back. He was looking back for security. The writer noted that the aunt finally sensed his anxiety and spoke the words that Chris desperately longed to hear, “I’m not going to leave you.” Can you imagine what those words must have sounded like to those young ears?
As I read that story, while my heart was indeed broken, I also was reminded of redemption, the magnificent reality that God Himself has sought out the lost of this world through His own Son, Jesus Christ. Because of the work of Jesus Christ, the lost are redeemed, the weak are made strong, the poor are made rich in Him. The redeemed in the Lord love and honor Him, not as giver of worldly things, nor as the source of our shopping sprees, but as our Great Redeeming Lord. Christ Himself becomes the Supreme Treasure of our lives. He is our Savior, our Shield, our Stronghold, our Source, our Sustainer. When all of life seems to be crashing down, Christ remains. In Scripture, God issued a promise to both Moses and Joshua, a promise also quoted by the writer of Hebrews, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you” (Heb 13:5, NIV). We need never look back to see if God is still there. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Heb 13:8).