Sunday, March 22, 2009

Valerie

No man or woman can be strong, gentle, pure, and good, without the world being better for it and without someone being helped and comforted by the very existence of that goodness. ~Phillips Brooks


My husband and I were youth group leaders in our church, over twelve years ago now, when we met Valerie during her young teenage years. Her family was not members of our church, but of one nearby that had a less active youth group, so she came to ours with a friend often. I don't think of her very often anymore, but today I woke up with Valerie on my mind.

Valerie was the only child of aging parents, both teachers in the public school system. They were quite strict; often when youth group activities continued past the time expected, Valerie needed to call home to explain to her parents why we could not drop her off at home in time—this was before cell phones were commonplace. Valerie had an interesting personality: She was sensitive and gentle. She was very talkative, often going on and on about something that interest her. She was a strong conservationist. She was artistic. She was a Christian.

Valerie had one other quality that it took me awhile to see and fully appreciate—she never talked about anyone else in a critical way. Nothing she ever said could be taken as compromising or embarrassing for her or for another person. At an age when girls tend to be vicious with teasing and talking behind each other's backs, Valerie quietly radiated a pure heart.

It is a very rare thing to know a person with a pure heart. I have had the pleasure to know a few and one of them was Valerie. Somehow such people seem misplaced in this world, as if they don't really belong here, as if they somehow exist in the kingdom of the Lord, yet are interacting with us here. Perhaps that is why Valerie was taken from us.

One night Valerie was given permission to stay overnight at a friend's home. They were dropped off a skating rink and were supposed to be picked up by another parent, but for some reason or another she did not show up. Knowing that Valerie's parents would take her straight home if they called them, they all decided to walk to the hosting friend's home. They crossed at very wide and busy intersection in the darkest area of that road having no crosswalk. All of them crossed safely—all except Valerie. Her friends watched in horror as she was hit by one car and then a second. Neither driver stopped.

The saddest part was not the loss of Valerie, for I knew she was in her heavenly home without a doubt, but what happened afterward. Her mother was quite bitter, she wanted the drivers to be found and punished beyond the extent of the law. Her church hosted as a place for Valerie's fellow high school students to grieve and a long sheet of paper was hung along length of one wall where they could write out their sentiments, yet so many of them had written such hate-filled statements.

It saddened me so much to see the evidence of such hatred writhing within their own hearts.

I believe Valerie would have been the first to forgive those who caused her own death, and she would have done the same if it has been her best friend instead. She did not just try to practice grace and forgiveness, she lived it...seemingly without any effort, even when she was grieved. Did her goodness and pure heart not touch one person? Were these wondrous gifts so lost on those who remained? Did I alone learn a precious lesson from Valerie? I hope not.

My Lord, You have shown me that forgiveness purifies my heart, especially through heartbreak. Thank you for giving me glimpses of truly pure hearts and please bless me as I continue my pursuit to be pure at heart.

2 comments:

  1. That is some story! I know an older lady like that & she astonishes me as well as occassionaly irritating me with her niavity. Sometimes bad things have to be said to rectify problems. To not speak is to allow evil to flourish...but I think you are refering to gossip & putdowns as oppossed to speaking out against sin. I'm so glad you shared this story.

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  2. My husband and I were talking about this just a few minutes ago. As you have pointed out, there is a difference confronting a person about his sin, and just name-calling and gossiping.

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Thank you fellow travelers for walking and talking with me along this journey.