“A Picture of Hope”
This week, Pastor Shulz received a very unusual Christmas gift. On Tuesday, he received a telephone call from Margaret Yoder, who asked if she could stop by with her seven-year-old daughter, Amy, on Wednesday morning, to bring him a gift Amy had made especially for him, for Christmas. She also noted to him that the gift was inspired by something he had said last week, about hope, and that she had been working on it all week.
That rather intrigued Pastor Shulz, especially since Amy is blind. She was born that way. He rather pictured some mother-daughter project, mostly the work of her mother’s hands. Perhaps they were making Christmas cookies, and she had patted out the dough and cut the stars or gingerbread men. Or perhaps her mother helped her make a string of popcorn, or, more likely, of green and red links of construction paper to hang on his tree. He was personally holding out for the cookies.
Come Wednesday morning, however, Amy bounced out of the car with a piece of paper in hand. Margaret explained to Pastor Shulz the labor that went into this project, and that it was ENTIRELY of Amy’s doing, and gave Pastor Shulz that “you had BETTER appreciate all the work she’s done!” look, while, as she explained, Amy’s smile grew bigger and bigger.
“Well,” Pastor Shulz finally said, we’d better have a look at this project!” Amy held out her prize for Pastor Shulz to see. It was a paper filled with lines and squiggles, circles that didn’t close, and sharp boxes that were out of kilter, and lines in bright colors that crossed, headed in all directions across the page. It was certainly colorful, too – it was apparent that Amy used every crayon she had. But there were no definable shapes. It certainly was the work of someone who could not see what she was doing.
He decided to comment on the colors, figuring that they may hold the key to the piece. “My, Amy! It sure is colorful! It looks like you used every color you have!” Amy giggled, obviously pleased. “There are sixty-four colors in my box of crayons. I used them all!” “Yes,” Margaret added, that’s the one place where I helped. When she started, she asked me things like, ‘What color is an angel?’ and “What do angels look like?’ I tried to explain, but – well, you try to explain something like that to someone who’s never seen ANYTHING! Finally, I told her that I would help her with the colors, but that she should draw what she saw in her mind and her heart. So she asked me for the colors, and I put them in her hand. The rest is hers.”
Pastor Shulz looked again at the piece of paper. In the middle, there was white and gold, surrounded by bright shapes in red, blue, yellow and green. Toward the outside were darker colors – browns and blacks and navy. Finally, he pulled Amy over close to him, and sat on the floor beside her. “Sit here, Amy,” he directed her, “and tell me about your picture.” She sank to the floor next to him. “It’s about hope,” she said. “You said that God doesn’t see things the way people do. I wanted to draw you a picture about Jesus, but Mommy said to draw what I saw.” Then she said, almost in a whisper, “I don’t see like other people do. I think I see what God sees.”
She began to point to parts of the picture – not to what was held in Pastor Shulz’s hand, but to a picture that was before her, in her own mind’s eye. There, she said, matter-of-factly – that’s Jesus. He looks like a baby here, but soon he will be a man, over here,” and she pointed to the other side of the sheet. And then he will die, and everyone will be sad. But God will make him live again, and everyone will be happy and go to church. And here,” she pointed to another region, “this is everybody being happy and alive. And this is love. And this is an angel telling the people not to be afraid. And this…” she paused for effect. “THIS is hope, in the middle.”
She lowered her hand, and turned her head toward the pastor. “Do you see it? Do you see hope?” Pastor Shulz searched the colors, all sixty-four of them, every mark, every squiggle. “I think I see it, Amy. You must have worked very hard to capture hope.” “That is the most important part of the gift.” She replied. “I wanted to make sure I had it right.”
There are two parts to any gift – the part you can see and the part you can’t – at least, not with human eyes. The part you see is the least part of the gift. The other part – well, that only exists in the heart of the giver, and it takes special eyes to see that part. Like Joseph, who could see beyond the fact that he was engaged to a young girl, having a baby out of wedlock, that God was doing something marvelous.
We see shapes and colors, and it’s wonderful that we can identify them with things in our world – a tree, a car, a human being. But we see little of what is really there. The greatest sight occurs in the soul, which is the tool Amy uses to see. There, she can see the color of hope or of joy. There, she understands their shape, their movement through human life. There she sees many dimensions of the story, and she can show you everything on a single sheet of paper.
If you have the time to listen. And the eyes to see.
And that’s what’s happening over at Our Redeemer Lutheran Church on this last Sunday before Christmas; where Pastor Shulz is sitting on the floor and listening to a small parishioner tell him the entire story, in kaleidoscopic color, as she sees it in her heart. It’s a story that may never make it into Time or Newsweek, but it’s the best story you’ll hear this week, proclaimed by an angel named Amy, a little girl who’s not much in the eyes of the world, but ever so precious in the eyes of God.