My wife and I were sitting in the waiting room at her doctor’s office last week. We only had a few minutes to wait until they called Lindsay back for her 21-week ultrasound.
There was a woman sitting across the room from us along with 4 small children, 2 boys and 2 girls. She looked absolutely miserable as she sat slumped in her chair. The kids were surprisingly well-behaved, especially considering how boring waiting rooms are (even for 33-year-old husbands).
The youngest girl stood up from her chair and waddled over to the magazine rack. Her jacket was so puffy that she could barely reach out her arms to take one of the magazines.
She looked like she might be 3 years old…
She was the cutest little thing.
She stood quietly by the magazine rack and studied the cover of the magazine she had chosen.
“Sit down” said the woman in a commanding, angry voice.
The young girl said something under her breath, still looking at her magazine, as the woman stood up, walked over and spanked her in the middle of the room.
My wife Lindsay and I looked at each other, both pretty surprised by the spanking. It didn’t seem necessary at all.
The little girl walked over to her chair, crying now, but still looking at her magazine. She had taken a sharp smack in the tush, but she was still infatuated with the cover. She sat there, quietly crying.
“Stop crying… you baby” the woman said.
I thought to myself, “She IS a baby!”.
“Stop crying you baby…”
And then she said it, slowly and intentionally:
“Stop crying, you ugly baby… Ugly baby. You are ugly, baby. You are not pretty, you are an ugly baby.”
Now, if you know me or Lindsay at all, you know exactly how we felt at this moment. It didn’t help that she kept going…
She just kept saying that to this little girl…
Lindsay stood up and walked out of the room instead of throwing her chair at the woman.
Right then the other little girl spoke up. She was about 5 years old.
She looked at the woman and said, “You’re going to get in trouble”.
She explained, “When my mom comes out here and she hears that you called her ugly, you are going to get in trouble. You called her ugly and stupid and you’re going to get in trouble.”
Now I see that this woman is the girls’ aunt, and that their mother is in with the doctor.
The woman replies, “I didn’t say she was stupid. I never said that. YOU ARE A LIAR. YOU ARE A LIAR… AND GOD HATES LIARS. THE DEVIL IS GOING TO GET YOU BECAUSE GOD HATES LIARS.”
I was waiting for my moment to say something, and this felt like a pretty clear invitation to join the conversation.
From across the room I say, “I think you are wrong. Actually, I’m a pastor and I know you are completely wrong! Little girl, you are not ugly, you are very pretty. Do you hear me? You are very pretty. You are muy bonita, very pretty! What she is saying about you is not true. And God does not hate you. He loves you! God loves liars, that’s why we shouldn’t lie, because He loves us so much.”
And then my anger got the best of me and I
shouted asked her “WHY WOULD YOU SAY THAT TO HER?!”
She rolled her eyes at me…
“Don’t roll your eyes at me! Why would you say that to her?! Do you actually think that’s going to help? Do you think you can make her behave by calling her ugly?!”
“I was just kidding. That’s how we joke with each other…” she says.
“She doesn’t know that you’re kidding! She won’t even be able to comprehend sarcasm until she’s 12 or 13 years old!! Don’t you understand how damaging that can be for her to hear at this age?”
I told the little girls that I was so sorry that they had heard those things, and then I walked out of the room angrily…
I see my wife in the back room sobbing. The nurses had been watching our exchange through the window, but Lindsay hadn’t seen or heard anyhing I had said to her. I sat back there for 5 minutes with them, and then went back out to the waiting room.
Instead of sitting across the room from them, I walked over to their side of the room and sat in the row facing the woman, just a few feet away.
I apologized for getting angry with her, and then went on to explain to her how much power her words have in the life of those kids. I asked her if she had ever been on the receiving end of those kinds of words… and her entire posture changed. She told me about how she grew up in a broken home with no father and with a verbally abusive mother. She eventually shared with me that she is homeless, and that her and her young son were living with their sister.
Then it all made sense. Hurt people hurt people.
Then I just went for it…
“The other reason I just had to say something is that you were completely wrong about God. Do you know that God loves you? He loves all of us, even when we’re at our very worst, even when we don’t feel like we deserve it, even when we say and do horrible ugly things.”
She had no idea.
I shared the good news of God’s love with her, with the kids sitting there listening, and then I gave them my contact information and told them that I would love for them to come to my church. She thanked me and smiled with a genuine smile.
I’m hoping and praying that God will use that conversation to bring her and those kids into a relationship with Him, and a clear understanding of the good news that brings great joy for all people- the life, death and resurrection of Christ!