The two 16 year old girls sat in my kitchen. Their dyed hair and heavy make-up attempted to mask the pain in their eyes. We ate dinner and just talked. They told me about their mean teachers, the homework that was much too difficult and the new boys in their lives.
“What do your parents do?” I asked. A simple enough question or at least I thought it was. They looked at each other and laughed. Natasha answered, “My dad? He only drinks.” “Does he live at home?” “Thank God, no,” she said with a smirk. “I don’t even know where he is and I don’t care!”
“What about your father, Irina?” I forced myself to ask casually. “What father? He drinks all the time and my mom kicked him out of the house three years ago.” “Does it bother you?” “Why should it bother me. Life is much better without him. He can do what he wants.”
Natasha and Irina sat looking at me. They showed no emotion. I thought of the little girl with big, colorful ribbons in her hair I saw on the bus. She was sitting next to her drunk father. He leaned over almost falling in her lap and attempted to talk with slurred, incoherent words. She tried to push him away. Her little voice pleaded, “Papa, please.” I stared out the window with tears stinging my eyes. I wanted to help her, protect her. Would this little girl end up like Natasha and Irina- cold, uncaring and trying to push the pain down, but knowing it is there.
Oh, what has happened to the fathers? They are lost in a world of vodka. A world that allows every thought and action to be let out of the dungeon below, a dungeon filled with the pain of unemployment, lack of power to make decisions, frustration, anger…The vodka opens the dungeon and the enemies come flying in the face of the women and children.
What can I do? I cry out to God, “Why? Why do you allow it? Don’t you know the pain these precious children are experiencing?” Part of me wants to yell, “It’s not fair!” But then I think of Jesus hanging on the cross. He allowed the men to crucify Him when He had the power to stop them.
I wish God could promise me that there will never be hurt in this world. I wish He would place an unbreakable barrier around these children whose hearts are being crushed, and dying. But He hasn’t.
God brought me here. God knew most of my students experience horrors that I cannot even imagine. He knew that drinking vodka and being a Russian man go hand-in-hand. And yet He has said, “I want you to show my love here. These precious children must know that I am love even though their lives are nightmares. I love them and you must show them for me. I am their Father.”
God is asking me, “Are you willing to love?” He does not tell me what that love will mean or what lies ahead. He simply asks the question.
With a heavy heart, I say, “yes.” I am willing to be completely weak so that Christ can be completely strong in me. I am willing to allow Him to love others who so desperately need to know His love. I don’t know what loving will mean, but I am willing to be wounded for Christ. He was willing to die for me. I must be willing to die to myself for Him.
My students need love. They are searching, looking, wanting acceptance and love. Will I give them love? Will I allow their Father to wrap His arms around their hurting hearts.
There is a Father who loves them. He wants them to know they are not alone. He cared so much that he sent me–who has experienced the depth of His love–so He can love them and bring them to Himself.
I hurt. Yes, I hurt every day. Sometimes it is too much for my sensitive eyes to see the abuse that the precious children endure. But I’m learning I must continue to open my heart so the Father of all fathers can love them. I must cry with them and show them the tears their Father cries.
One day those in Christ will live in a place where only love and security resides, but…but until that time, I will open myself to love and to hurt. The children of Russia are crying because their fathers are lost. But the Father sent His Son to seek and save the lost. If only the fathers and children will come to Him.
Copyright © 1998 by Jane Carole Stein