I first knew of Kate through the church prayer chain. I was only ten but that prayer request for a little girl named Kate caught my attention. I knew her family as the one family in our church who had lots of money. I knew they were rich because they had a three-car garage and only rich people would have a three-car garage. This rich family only had one son and had tried for a long time to adopt. Finally, they were getting a girl! Kate was coming to live with them but had to be in the hospital for a long time first. She was no ordinary little girl. Her world was one of survival. Kate had lived the majority of her life in a box. She had not seen the out of doors. Her mother was engaged in prostitution and was drug addict. Kate, a major inconvenience, had to been hidden away. She fed her once in a while, enough to keep her alive. When she was discovered she was malnourished and afraid of people. She had no trust, no love, and bit anyone who got near her.
We were invited over for dinner before Kate was allowed to come home. I could not wait to see inside this lavish home to behold what awaited “the box girl”. I was not disappointed. Her room was all ready for her. She would walk into a room with a canopy bed draped with white eyelet cotton and matching puffy comforter. A two-story doll house full of furniture, stood against one wall. There were teddy bears with bows and dolls still with the tags on. I could only imagine Kate’s overflowing joy!! I could not imagine the thrill of walking into that room fit for a princess after having lived in nothing more than a cardboard box. I spent many nights laying awake trying to imagine what she looked like and the expression on her face when she, of all people, got to be adopted by the rich family in our church and move into a room like that.
The first time I saw Kate, her long blond pig tails, huge brown eyes and pouty little lips made her the poster girl for five-year-old girls. I positioned myself on the pew so I could just watch her during church. She became the subject of many of my daydreams. Life was all new for her. She sat next to her mom on the pew week after week quiet but fidgety. One other strange thing about this little girl could not be overlooked, she carried a loaf of bread everywhere she went.
I was standing near my mom as the story of the loaf of bread was being told. I crept closer. Her new mama began a story that would shape my view of sin, redemption and the tender love of Jesus for the rest of my life. You see, Kate kept sneaking food from meal times and hiding it in her pockets. Every chance she got she snuck down to the kitchen and hid the food all over her room. There under the bed was half eaten rolls, handfuls of cereal, half loaves of bread, apples, carrots, and anything else she managed to carry upstairs. For a while her mom let her have her "secret". Then one day she brought the girl up into the room and cleaned out under the bed while the girl watched. When she had gathered all the dishes and bags and crusts she took the little girl downstairs with her. “Kate lets keep all these things in the kitchen. This is your kitchen and all of the food in the kitchen is yours as well as ours. You can have as much as you like but it is important not to hide the food or it may spoil.” Seeing the distress on Kate’s face she made one exception to the rule, “But just in case you ever forget that we will always keep food here for you I will let you keep a loaf of bread with you as a reminder.”
Kate was also afraid in her new room. She wanted a box to sleep in. Her new mom put a box in her room and slept beside her on the floor. One day she moved the box to the bed and Kate slowly got use to sleeping on that nice soft surface instead of the hard floor. It was not long before Kate’s mom could remove the box and Kate finally slept in that beautiful white eyelet canopy bed for the first time without the ugly box.
One day Kate even gave the loaf of bread back to her mother and said she didn’t want it anymore.
Kate was new, she belonged in a new family and had new parents and grandparents and a brother. She was no longer Kate the daughter of the prostitute and Kate who lives in the box but she was now Kate the class mate, Kate the girl who loves her dolls etc. But it took a while for Kate’s mom and dad to lovingly convince her of these truths about her new life.
Kate’s rescue was complete, but Kate had lived so long in one way that living as normal 5 year olds live was scary. Kate longed for the safety and comfort of what she once knew, even though the darkness and isolation of a cardboard box nearly killed her.
How gentle Jesus has been with me in my own sin. The places I can't yet trust, he allows me to carry a loaf of bread. He allows me to drag the burden of my own survival skills until I can trust the bounty laid before me. I have been given the keys to the Kingdom and I have been lavished on with a love that is beyond my ability to soak it all in but I.....sometimes choose a cardboard box. How would I have felt if I heard that Kate's mom punished her for her desire for the box or the hiding food in her room? It is unimaginable that she would yell at Kate, "Look at all I have provided for you! I spent thousands of dollars on this room and you don't even appreciate it!" No, instead she slept on the floor beside her. She waited for a little girl’s broken heart to heal and that tiny seed of trust to begin to grow.
Oh, the gentle love of Jesus.