Today’s post is written by Brave Writer, Melanie Neilson.
I let myself breath deeply the fresh air as I closed my eyes and thanked God for allowing me to return. I could hear the sounds of children laughing, chickens clucking, mommas yelling and a fire popping. Kicking off my shoes I stepped into the red, soft dirt and wiggled my toes deep into the dust. My soul was connected to this exotic land and the people who inhabited it. It felt good to be here, it felt right, it felt meaningful. I allowed my heart to connect as I breathed in the air and listened to the sounds of the village.
I knew coming back would mean my heart would long for more. I knew saying yes to go would mean God showing me how to love more deeply and to live life more sacrificially. I knew it would mean seeing sorrow, pain, need and hopelessness immensely. I knew I chanced having my heart break in ways I never thought possible.
I wish I could say I allowed this without resistance, but I cannot. I thought that I could put up a wall and not allow myself to enter into the depth of where God wanted to take me. I thought I could guard my heart so that all I could see was joy and hope expressed by some. I wish I could say I allowed my heart to go there, where the pain was deep. But I purposefully shielded my heart and put on a front that looked like joy and hope.
But then, I caught those deep eyes, staring at me through the barbed wire surrounding the compound. I started to look away, but I was captivated by the intensity of his stare. I tried to speak but I could only stare back. My heart raced, no, it panicked! I could see question, pain, determination and resilience staring back at me. Neither one of us could say anything. We just stared.
I felt my heart break into pieces as I felt pain. I wasn’t sure if it was his pain or my own. My heart cried out to God to do something. I could see poverty’s hand on this child. I could feel hunger calling my name on his behalf. I could smell oppression that kept this child hopeless. He just stared. He did not move.
As we stared at each other, there was a knowing. It was as if he knew my heart. He knew I had put up a wall. He could see right through my fortress that looked like joy and hope. As I stared into his deep eyes, knowing that he somehow knew the state of my heart, I began to cry. No words were exchanged, but a communication took place that touched me to the core of my being. Tears leaked from the corners of my eyes, slowly, one by one.
I continued to gaze into those deep eyes. He just watched my tears. One by one, each tear drew me closer to this child. There was a nonverbal knowing between us. Then I saw it. I saw my reflection in his eyes. He was seeing me as I am. Would he reject me? Would he be angry that I was guarded? Did he know I did not want to feel his pain? My heart longed to allow him in.
As I gazed deeper into his eyes, I saw his eyes sparkle. He reached his hand inside the wire and touched my hand gently. No words were exchanged; something much deeper was shared through those deep eyes.
Photography by: Melanie Neilson
I would like to think I am brave and of pure heart all the time, especially when I believe I am doing God’s work and in His will. But I know my heart. I know how naturally I want to protect my heart. I know how quick I can be to put up a wall of protection. No matter how hard I try sometimes, it just happens. I am so thankful that God searches my heart, knows my anxious thoughts and still leads me in the way everlasting, even through the deep eyes of a beautiful child. No exchange of words necessary. Deep eyes.
23 Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
24 See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.
Melanie is a wife, mom, and grammy to an amazing family of twelve. She is a friend, daughter, sister, pastor, and advocate for justice. Her heart goes beyond the borders of the United States and longs to love others the way Jesus does.