A little theological digression here before we get back to Graziella’s story…
How often in the follower’s life does the story turn on those words? But God. . .
The case can be made that the thought embedded there is central to our identity. It is an affirmation that He is the creator, that He is sovereign, and—perhaps most important—that He is actively engaged in the lives of those He calls His own.
This whole thing is God’s game, not ours, and He can suspend the rules and change the outcome as He chooses.
David said it this way: ”Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, for you are with me.” Even in the darkest of contexts, God is still there, active and intervening in our lives.
As I wrote in Dirty Faith, “The imagery of Scripture is always, always that every one of us is an orphan, estranged from God. 1 Chronicles 29:15: “We are foreigners and strangers in your sight, as were all our ancestors. Our days on earth are like a shadow, without hope.”
But the story never ends there. The picture of Scripture is that, yes, we are strangers, we are orphans, we are without hope—but God. . .
And the reality is, if God can adopt me, the stranger, the orphan, in all my brokenness, if He can fix me, then He can certainly take care of Graziella, too.
About sixteen months after that initial encounter, I was standing at the back of the City of Youth chapel during a Saturday evening worship service. As the service drew to a close, Pastor Derli invited everyone accepting the transforming love of Christ for the first time to stand. Very low-key; no high-pressure evangelism. First one, then another, and then, finally, eight or ten children standing. Pastor Derli asked for a friend and a staff member go stand and pray with each child. Friends stood and embraced friends; members of Hope’s staff wrapped loving, supportive, encouraging arms around teenagers.
And then I noticed a young lady just a row or two in front of me who had no adult with her yet. I walked up behind, slipped my arm around her shoulders, and began to quietly pray, trusting God for the translation. A few minutes later, as the service ended and the lights came up, the tall young lady turned toward me with what I can only describe as the light of Christ shining in her eyes.