The newness and excitement soon faded away as life in the house quickly spiraled into messy chaos. It’s difficult to accurately pin-point everything that was wrong. Dysfunctional is a good word. A tonne of pent-up emotion – wrapped up in frustration, sadness, anger, bitterness – at the world, the absentee father, other functional people, God, everyone – for dealing them that ‘set of poker cards’.
The children couldn’t understand why my black skin wouldn’t get ‘clean’. I remember them making fun of how I walked; they said that my behind moved and swayed with me. I wondered what the little girl with the African genes would do when she realized she had inherited a black-person ‘derrière’.
I prayed that I would handle them all with love and kindness. Things only grew worse. If it wasn’t the children using me as a punching bag, it was the grandmother yelling at me for being too quiet, too talkative, too happy, too social, too anything and everything. Whatever I did and didn’t do was a reason for one more insult, one more verbal attack.
I didn’t know what to do. In just a few weeks, my European adventure had turned into a nightmare. Too embarrassed to call my parents and tell them the truth of what was happening, I tried to get away from the house as much as I could. It took me a while to accept that the situation was not going to change. I felt like the young, foolish man who had used up his inheritance; eating with the pigs yet having a place at my father’s table.
After one particularly tough tongue-lashing from the grandmother and endless hours of crying alone in my attic-room, I decided that I had had enough. I remember gliding down the stairs, stopping at the front door to wear my winter gear before running out of the house. There was a snow storm outside but I didn’t care. I wanted to get away…far away from the house and from the voices racing through my mind calling me a coward and a failure.
What was I going to say to people back home? Should I stay just to prove that I was tough, would leaving be giving up? I still had two months of the language course left. If I stayed in the country, where would I live, how would I eat? I was at the end of my rope. I needed a solution ‘pronto’. God just had to come through for me.
What do you do when your hopes come tumbling down, when what you thought was your dream turns into a nightmare? What do you do when your perfect world is shattering around you?
My Good Samaritan
I had met Mrs. B at the Episcopalian church the first week I arrived. She was a retiree, an older jovial Christian lady. She had sought me out at the end of the service and offered to help me find a congregation nearer my own age. Sure enough she telephoned later that week with directions to another church that I much preferred. We made plans to have tea together.
So imagine my surprise and relief when I came up to Mrs. B that day. She was standing right outside her house bidding farewell to a guest when she turned and saw me walking towards her. I was sobbing heavily and my tear stained face must have clued her in on the state of affairs. Mrs B didn’t ask many questions, just invited me into her house for some tea. She let me cry.
It took a couple of minutes and several sips of chamomile tea before my sobs quietened down into coherent speech. I told her about what had been happening at the house, how I was feeling and that I was ready to go back home. She listened to me and assured me that I had come to the right place; everything was going to be ok. There is something about sharing your troubles with someone else that lightens the load. I was so glad to hear that I was not crazy; that there really was something out of whack; that it was ok for me to cry.
Eventually, Mrs. B (my very own good Samaritan) helped me find a students hostel and paid my rent for the remainder of my time in Germany. As the warm spring replaced the cold winter months, she gave me odd jobs around her house in exchange for pocket money. Her family took me in as one of their own. What followed were – innumerable lunches and dinners – treasure hunting and playing in the park with the grandkids – beautiful plays and music recitals – numerous visits to museums, botanical gardens, lakes and other awe-inspiring places – endless trips in and around Southern Germany – my social calendar was full. They even sent me back-packing to Paris – one of the most amazing experiences of my life!! (A post for another day).
“Our heavenly Father never takes anything from his children unless he means to give them something better.” – George Muller
In the end, God turned my tears into dancing, my sorrow into joy. Now, when I think of that time in Germany I know that God was there with me. I can see him in the tears and sadness as clearly as in the incredible love and kindness of Mrs. B and her family. I will never thank them enough for truly being Jesus to me. I just love how the story turned out, an incredible God-incidence.
Song of the week – Never Once – Matt Redman