“It matters to this one.”
The oft-told story of the old man saving starfish on the beach hung in my laundry room growing up. I could always imagine the sand, the gentle toss, the splash as one starfish made it to safety. Yes. It matters to that one.
It’s an inspirational story that reminds us of how each person, each life is valuable. We don’t have to save the world, we just need to do what we can where we are with what God gives us.
But here’s my problem with the starfish story:
What if you can’t save any of them? What if you invest your time, your prayers, your very life into people who don’t change? Will we be okay with that?
It’s easier to come alongside the broken and the abused and those who are searching for hope and peace if we think that they will change. But if we spend our time with broken, hurting people because we’re expecting a come to Jesus moment at the end of it all, we’re missing the point. I’ve sat with a lot of broken teenage girls in my life. Girls who have a lifetime of work, hard work, ahead of them to “change.” Girls who might look like failures to the untrained eye. Girls who push away people who care about them, go back to making unhealthy choices for their lives and continue the cycle of the only life they’ve ever known.
Am I okay with that? Are you okay with that? Investing your life into people who might take advantage, might never change, might continue to hurt themselves and their loved ones? Are you prepared to see promising strides, to feel hopeful, only to discover that the siren song of the lies they know is louder than His love and grace and truth?
Friends, our calling is to be there. To love. To offer grace and hope where needed, to be a touch of Jesus in a life fraught with tragedy and pain and hopelessness. But it is not to save them. Honestly, if I were to give you a rundown of all the girls I’ve walked with, I don’t know that there are any I could confidently say have left it all behind, who are living brand-new lives filled with the love of Jesus. Most of them are still numbing that pain with drugs, sex and alcohol. They are still caught up in unhealthy relationships. They still don’t know how precious they are to the One who made them.
But I know them all. And I love them all. And I pray for them, and I hope that seeds planted will release them from the lies that have captured them so.
This Kingdom work? It’s messy. We enter into peoples’ lives, we care for them, we help them, we love them…only to see them turn back to what they know. We pour love and grace over them, but the taunts of the evil one are easier to believe. It’s hard, sweaty, slow-going work that seems will never produce the fruit.
But we know, don’t we? We know that our God, He is bigger. He is a miracle-working God. These girls I love? They are HIS. Adored. Beloved. Precious. The ones you love, the ones who have grabbed your heart? He loves them too.
Don’t lose hope. Don’t come with an agenda. Don’t worry if it looks like all you’re giving is going to waste. We know better than that.
“There has never been the slightest doubt in my mind that the God who started this great work in you would keep at it and bring it to a flourishing finish on the very day Christ Jesus appears.” (Phil. 1:6, MSG)
Keep on keeping on. Grab those little starfish and offer them the hope you have, the God you know, the Jesus who loves them. And pray like a maniac that they’ll get it one day.
Because sometimes that’s all you can do.