By Cindy Koch

Turning sideways, no one could see the little hole in the hem of her favorite dress. Sometimes the other kids would make fun of her when they noticed her clothes up close. Not always clean, not always in the best shape, she was painfully aware of which posture to take in each of her three outfits, so no one could see the imperfections. Today, a bent leg, pinning her right hip against the brick school wall would protect her from the scrutiny of the other third graders during recess. This one, though, was her favorite because it had long sweatshirt sleeves. She crossed her tiny arms, imagining she had a warm, wooly blanket wrapped around her, counting down the seconds before the bell called them all back to a bright, ordered classroom, out of the gray, unfriendly mist.

Sometimes she wanted to play out on the playground; the other kids looked like they were having so much fun. Tag and flipping around the bars, even just laughing and talking to another friend. But no one looked at her when they ran outside looking for their friends. No one noticed that she stood so far away from the rest of the kids. Every once in a while, a malicious little boy would throw stick or a ball in her direction. Others would notice her, and for a millisecond she was hopeful that this was her chance to play. But no. They would call her a name, laugh at her awkward expression, and turn away to the confident ones who were free to run on the playground.

Trapped under her shame, suffocating from lack of self-confidence, frozen in the same uncomfortable spot every single day, there was no other place for her to go. Her parents worked strange jobs, and she couldn’t even remember what they really did, but sometimes they are not around when she woke up in the morning. Most days she couldn’t find breakfast before school, and today she was particularly hungry. Recognizing the stabbing hunger pain in her stomach, the minutes before the bell drew out to what seemed like hours.

A blast of warm air startled her as a pair of double doors burst open to her left. Cheerful light sliced through the fog that blurred everything outside. Marching boldly onto the playground blacktop, a well-dressed man stepped into the middle of everything. He didn’t look like anyone she recognized, but there was something kind in his eyes. Intrigued, she couldn’t keep her eyes off him. What was going on here? But then he turned squarely to face her. He looked directly at her and said,

“Little girl, I want to give you anything. Just ask.”

Terror washed over this little girl on the playground. Why was this happening to her? Couldn’t he see how dirty and undeserving she was? There was no way that this offer was really for her. There were about fifty other kids right behind him that knew exactly what to ask for. But who was she to make any kind of request from this kind and generous man? As hungry, cold, tired, and sad as she was, all she really wanted was for this man to go away. His unsolicited mercy scared her. His confident graciousness made her suspicious. It is too good to be true, and she wasn’t sure what she should ask for.

The Almighty God shows up for you just like for this little girl. Finding you in the shadows, exposing your faults, he still looks directly at you. Instead of seeing your dirt and shame, he sees the perfect likeness of his obedient son. Your torn-up life and messy work don’t bother him. He has come to give you a life you did not earn for yourself.

“Little girl, I want to give you anything. Just ask.”

But just for food, clothes, goods, and comfort in this life, that is not enough. These simple little things are not all the Father wants to give you. These tiny little things are not why the Son of God chose to die for you. The little girl who only asks for a simple bowl of soup is unthankful for the greater gifts. God has promised to give you so much more.

“Little girl, I want to give you anything. Just ask.”

Our Father, who art in Heaven, Hallowed by Thy name. Your Kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Thine is the power and kingdom and the glory, forever and ever. Amen.