Several weeks ago as a family we sat around a small bonfire in our yard under the starry sky wetting our bums a bit on the dewy soil beneath us. Each person was wrapped up in somewhat odd attire, brightly-colored scarfs and wool beanies with sweatshirts and tall socks, sweating in the humid night under the barriers we wore between the blood-thirsty mosquitos and our flesh.
The question for each of us to answer was: What is the biggest thing God has done in your life?
I do not remember the details of everyone’s answers, but our 10-year-old Gleny’s has stuck like a push pin in my mind ever since.
After her older sister, 14-year-old Diana, mentioned something about how God fulfilled her desire for a family and an opportunity to study music, I expected a similar answer from Gleny, as we all know that younger sisters can be pretty good at copying their older sisters.
Instead, as though the biggest thing God had done in her life was plainly obvious to her, Gleny said matter-of-factly, “I used to hate Brayan and now I love him.”
We all sat momentarily stunned with her response, caught off guard by her frankness and swept into awe at God’s work in her life at the realization that this was, in fact, one of the biggest works God had done in young Gleny’s roller-coaster heart. My eyes immediately swung across the flames to Brayan’s lit face and found a perfect tranquility that I had yet seen in this restless, insecure young man. He was neither offended nor surprised that she said she used to hate him (for we all knew it was plainly true) nor was he embarrassed that his name was called out in front of the group.
In the ensuing five or ten seconds of silence after little Gleny’s remark, I believe in each person’s heart we thought, “Yup, that’s about right.”
We had all witnessed her severe daily verbal attacks of this young man whom she struggled to accept into our household as a brother, the doors she slammed out of rage, and the unceasing hateful looks and comments hurled at the new guy who had pushed her down the totem pole. Through prayer, through tears, through one mediation session after another, our little lioness’ heart began to soften toward the awkward teenage boy who shared her Ma and Pa with her. After five or six of the most stressful months I have ever experienced with anyone, slowly the direct hateful comments began to slow down and then altogether cease. She stopped screaming at him, telling him to leave. She stopped seeking different ways to accuse, to make him fall. And then, one day, I heard her compliment him on a job well done when he was doubting his skills in paint class. I thought the comment must have been made sarcastically, in jest to make him hurt even more, but the sincerity in her voice could not be mistaken. And that was the turnaround.
And so, that night around our little bonfire of empty cereal boxes and twigs, Gleny’s blunt, unashamed answer helped remind us all that God is still in the business of changing lives. Is that not what God does in our world? Places the lonely in families, calls the lost into his kingdom, replaces our stubborn, hard hearts with tender, loving ones?
I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. Ezekiel 36:26