Wednesday, October 02, 2002

My brain is blocked. I’m not certain what has happened. I was coasting along just fine, running through life like a warm V-8 engine on a cold winters night. Sure the elements knock against it when you crank it but by the time you round the corner she’s purring like a kitten and pouring heat onto your frostbitten feet. Ok, that made very little sense. Truly a dumb sentence. See what I mean? My brain is blocked.

I guess I know what to attribute it to. Could be too much caffeine. I don’t think so. Might be a pending wedding building up steam in the back of my brain. I doubt it. It isn’t illness and it isn’t insomnia. It’s Ashley.

Ashley Brown. 13 years old. Pretty. Smart. Quiet. Long brown hair to match her long legs. Fast fingers on the keyboard. 8th grader. Cheerleader. Loves Centrifuge. Loves life. Has Leukemia.

How is that for a horrible ending to a fine paragraph? 28 years as a youth pastor and you think you’ve seen it all. Kids who love church. Kids who hate church. Kids who wreck their cars and live. Kids who wreck their cars and die. Kids who get scholarships. Kids who join the army. Kids who get married and make babies. Kids who don’t get married and make babies anyway. Kids who have sex change operations. Kids who have to act like adults. Kids who don’t seem to ever stop being kids. Kids who go into ministry. Kids who join cults. Kids who become detectives. Kids who go to work for Arthur Anderson and wish they hadn’t. Kids who throw up in multi-million dollar auditoriums. Kids who run through plate glass windows. Kids who fall into the fountain at “Six Flags” and come out blue. Kids who overdose on Tylenol and live. Kids who hang themselves and don’t. Kids who have too many toes. Kids who lose an arm. Kids that get a try out for a major league ball club. Kids in wheel chairs. That’s just a sampling of what I’ve seen in 28 years of trying to be Jesus to kids. But this is the first time I’ve ever had a kid with Leukemia.

It’s not that I don’t know what to do for the kid. I know how to help Ashley. That’s simple. You love her. You love her loud. You love her long. You love her when she’s feeling well. You love her when she’s feeling crappy. You love her when she’s in the hospital. You love her when she’s at home. You love her in email. You love her on the telephone. Most of all you love her in person. Because love makes you show up wherever she is. Love makes you take her an animated mooing stuffed cow. Love makes you send her flowers or balloons. Love makes you help her hook up a laptop to talk to friends from the hospital. Love makes you blow up a surgical rubber glove, tie it to a chair, and write “Hi Ashley” on it. Love makes you turn your back when she needs to get out of bed to go to the bathroom because she’s wearing “one of those gowns.” Love makes you turn and face her when you really want to stare out the window because you aren’t sure if she’ll notice your eyes are kind of wet. Love makes you get out the oil, pray over her and anoint her.

I understand that we live in a world where reality is seldom fair. God sends the rain on the just and the unjust. Even when they are only 13. My problem is not philosophical. My problem is not theological. My problem is not medical. My problem is not what to say to those who ask “why?” I can answer others questions. I can satisfy them. But I do have a problem. A practical problem.

My problem is what to do if ASHLEY asks me “why?” You see, if Jesus were here… in the flesh… right now… what would He do? He would smile at her the way you can only smile when you are in total control. It would be the smile of a parent on Christmas morning. A parent who is holding that special present behind their back…the one the child has asked for and is wanting so badly. Jesus would smile the smile that would be smiled for the 5 seconds before the present was handed to the child. The smile of great anticipation. Great anticipation comes when you know something really, really, good is about to happen. And His smile would turn to exuberance and utter joy as Ashley saw His present to her. Jesus would heal Ashley. Is there really any doubt in anybody’s mind that Jesus would heal Ashley?

And my stated purpose in life is to be Jesus to teenagers. So what do I do if Ashley asks me someday soon “why?” My brain is blocked. And I think I know why.