Someone to Look Up To
In the gospel of Matthew, we are confronted with some powerful words: “I tell you the truth, unless you turn from your sins and become like little children, you will never get into the Kingdom of Heaven” (Matt. 18:3, NLT ). The norm is that children look to adults to assist them in sharpening their moral compasses and guiding them in making the right decisions. One day, a young boy walked into my office, bringing with him a new perspective of those ancient words of Matthew.
I heard the faint knock on my office door and opened it to find an unsettled-looking little boy named Joshua. I asked him how I could help him, thinking perhaps a teacher had sent him with a message. Instead, he just wanted to talk to me about the severe problems in his life. Surprised by his introduction, I immediately began praying in my heart that God would give me the right words to comfort his heart. “I am coming to you because you are our school’s chaplain, Ms. Ferguson, and in my mind that means you are my pastor,” he said. “I have a serious problem—I don’t have anyone to look up to anymore.”
I asked him to explain why he felt as if he had no one else to look up to. He said, “Well, for me to look up to someone, they must be obedient to God’s Word. I used to have two people like that in my home—my mother and my brother—but I don’t have that anymore.”
“Why do you say that?” I asked. “Surely, they both love you and want what is best for you.” He quickly replied, “This is not about love. This is about obedience to God’s Word.” Then I asked, “Tell me how are they being disobedient to God.” He took a deep breath and starting telling me his story.
As he spoke sincerely from his heart, I sensed that at 8 years old, he had experienced something that some church-going adults have yet to encounter —the conviction of the Holy Spirit. I was humbled by the words that came from his mouth. He said, “Pastor Ferguson, my mother and brother told me that they were going to start working on the Sabbath. The Sabbath is God’s holy day. How could they? We all went to the same evangelistic meetings. We listened to the same sermons and made the decision to be baptized together. Now I can’t find those Scriptures anymore—I don’t know where they are in the Bible. All I know is when the pastor was preaching they were there; I saw them. I know they are there in the Bible. It says we should ‘remember the Sabbath day,’ and the pastor explained that it means we should not work on the Sabbath. How can they do this? How can they be disobedient to God? I cannot look up to them anymore! Not when they go against God!”
His eyes were pleading with me for an explanation. Fighting back the tears, he went on speaking. “They say that I don’t understand that they need money to provide for me to pay for my school fees, buy clothes, food, and toys. But it is they who don’t understand. They don’t understand God. If they did, they would know that it is God who provides for me. I am God’s child first, so I am God’s responsibility. Why don’t they understand how God works? I heard that somewhere in the Bible it says that God provides for the animals and trees. Can’t He do all of that and still take care of me? They don’t have to disobey God.”
By this time, I was pretty close to tears myself as I thought of the words of Jesus when confronted by the centurion, “I have not found such great faith with anyone in Israel” (Matt. 8:10, NASB). At that moment, I understood fully why it is that we need to become as little children. His interpretation was so literal—without worry or reasoning.
For Joshua, there was “no other way but to trust and obey.” He believed wholeheartedly that the God who promised to provide for our every need is faithful to His word. Our only duty as Christians is to be obedient. I looked at him and assured him that he had it all right. I told him that sometimes, as adults, holding the bills in our hands and looking at the bare cupboards and mouths to feed, we forget. We look for our own way out instead of waiting on God’s way and His time. As humans, we like to know, we want to see and plan; but sometimes God doesn’t show us ahead of time how it will turn out. He just asks us to trust Him! That’s the faith walk. Often, human beings, like his mother and brother—like me—prefer the sight walk. In walking by sight, we think we have security, but our only real security is in obedience to God’s Word.
He nodded his head as if to say he understood. Then he said to me, “One more thing. Can you buy me some Krazy Glue®?” My eyebrows raised. “Krazy Glue®? What for?” He stood up and lifted up his feet one at a time, and I saw why. The soles of his shoes were falling apart. I saw that things were truly tough financially for his family. I pictured the desperation of that mother, and I said to him, “How about I do something better than that? I can buy you new shoes.” His response stunned me, “No, Ms. Ferguson, but thank you. You see, my mommy wants to work on the Sabbath because she thinks that I need new things. I want to show her that I don’t need new things. I would love to keep my old things, even if they are falling apart, so that she can understand that God’s Sabbath is more important than new shoes or clothes. All I need is glue, but I don’t have money. Can you please buy me some Krazy Glue®?”
My heart was full as I told him, “OK.” I instructed him to wait for me. I walked to the nearby convenience store to purchase the glue, replaying his words in my mind. Tears filled my eyes as I realized that an 8-year-old had refused something new to keep something old. Not just old shoes, but what some might call the old commandments of God. He didn’t want to forget what God said to remember.
Joy filled his countenance as we glued those shoes together. He looked up at me and said, “See how God provides? Thanks for the glue. Thank you.” Struggling to maintain my composure, I said, “I should be saying thank you to you! God knew I needed someone to look up to, and He sent you, Joshua.”
Just before he gave me a hug, he looked at me and said, “I won’t be at Bahamas Academy next year; my mind is made up. I love it here. Being in a Seventh-day Adventist school is great, but if Mommy thinks that my school fees are a reason for breaking the Sabbath, then I am ready to go to the government school. I am willing to do whatever it takes to help Mommy keep the faith. I know as long as I can go to church and read my Bible, God will take care of me wherever I go. So you won’t see me here next year, but wherever I go, I will be obedient to God’s Word.” I quickly responded, “I don’t want to lose you, but I see you are convicted. Just remember wherever you go, keep looking up to Jesus.”
Sure enough, as I checked the school registers the next year, he was gone. I never felt so blessed to lose a student. “For what is a man profited, if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matt. 16:26, KJV). This 8-year-old boy was willing to give up new clothes, shoes, toys, and attending a private school for the soul salvation of his mother and brother. He was willing to go without because he understood God. Oftentimes, we as adults are tempted to break the Sabbath to “provide” for our families; we withhold the tithe and offerings in order to pay the bills; we are dishonest in our jobs to get ahead or simply because we “see” no other way out. The truth is simple; it is as Joshua said: many of us adults don’t understand God—we know about Him, but we don’t trust Him. What if we disobey God’s commandments for the temporary securities of earth and lose what matters most—our souls? What if we give our children the best this world has to offer, but at the end of the day, discover that it would have been better to teach them the deeper truths of God’s love, provision, and faithfulness? What if instead of giving them everything materially, we gave them something they really need in this world—someone godly to look up to? That encounter in my office reminded me that obedience, even in adversity, is worth more than gold to our testimony. Moreover, in Christ Jesus, we always have someone to look up to!
Written by Anastacia Ferguson-Bansie, Chaplain of Maranatha Academy and previously published in Apr. -Jun. 2015 issue of the Dynamic Steward magazine.