I will never leave you or forsake you, Hebrews 13:5, July 29, 1994, New York City. It’s written on the back of a flattened Super Bubble wrapper in black ink in my familiar cursive. I forgot about it, until today.
Eighteen years ago, Misha and I sat cross-legged on the floor in a circle with teen girls, leading morning devotions before serving soup to the homeless in Brooklyn. She feels prompted by the Holy Spirit to do this exercise of writing on wrinkled bubblegum paper, tucking truth between bible pages to remember.
We help lead one of several teams hosting summer outreach opportunity for teens across America, launching Youth Explosion, a ministry of Youth With a Mission.
That moment resurfaced while praying for my daughter this morning. Yesterday the alarm went off at 3:00am. A trip to the airport before sunrise, two flights, and a four-hour bumpy bus ride later, I receive a text message at 6:38pm saying she arrives with her peers in Jamaica safe and sound. That’s all I know. So I’m praying.
When I recall that bubblegum wrapper, I search in my nightstand for the bible I used during that outreach with girls her age all those years ago. That red, blue and yellow rectangle of waxy, it falls right out onto the floor. I haven’t reached for that particular bible in three years. The way if falls out like God saying, “here, this is what I’m showing you,” it gives me goose bumps. Or as my friend Jennifer says, “God Bumps.”
That outreach I helped to lead, it didn’t go so well. The kids complained about the heat, the work they had to do, why we couldn’t do more sightseeing. We were unprepared to handle teens with deep family issues and the need to be rebellious. They were more interested in shopping and dating each other than they were about sharing Jesus with people who didn’t have a place to lay their head at night. We sent one of the boys home after a few days.
H stayed back in Phoenix that week to help his mother care for his father in the early stages of cancer. It would be his dads last days of coherency, before morphine became his best friend.
Newly married, H and I were dealing with a plethora of unknowns, learning from the lessons of hardness without answers.
And maybe this is all we need to know when answers hide, details remain unobtrusive, understanding seems far away: I will never leave you or forsake you.
Perhaps the gift of seeds sown along the urban sidewalks in New York and beside sick beds in Phoenix is my daughter giving herself away in Jamaica. She’s the first of our family to step on Caribbean soil. And I think her feet will fit perfectly in the imprint of His footsteps waiting for her there.
She’s scattering seeds of her soul over the poor and I can’t wait to see the blooms. The handwriting is on the bubblegum wrapper so I know they’ll be lovely.
Have you ever found a forgotten promise in an obscure place? Or wondered about the fruit from what seemed like a barren season?