He is two and a half years old. He sat in my lap facing me—long legs straddling mine. His feet dangled and swung, suspended above the sidewalk.
I was mesmerized.
His name is Steven and it means crowned one. His head is crowned with powder-white hair and it blew like a dandelion in the afternoon wind. His eyes are blue. Pale, cornflower blue framed by long, curved lashes. His face is heart-shaped, truly. Pointed little chin, broad forehead.
I kept trying to get him to grin for me. My fingers became spiders crawling up his legs and across his arms. When I would tickle him his whole body would collapse. His grin is snaggletoothed, a phrase my grandmother would have used, but it fits Steven. He fell and damaged a couple of his front teeth and they had to be pulled. He didn’t lose the very front two, but one front and the one next to it. His grin is lopsided, but the affect is actually quite charming and disarms me. I grinned and then laughed. And it was a real laugh. One that erupted before I even realized it had formed.
His voice is deep. Far deeper than a child his age should be and it startles you. He sounds like he has a jumbo marshmallow in his mouth.
That day I held him in my lap and I didn’t want to let go. I held his cherry slushy and fed him spoonful after spoonful of the sticky, messy concoction. He was content, and so was I.
I enjoyed watching this funny little boy. I have loved him since he was three and a half days old. I held him when he came home from the hospital to be with his foster parents. He was a tiny, malnourished baby. All bones, no fat. His head was far too big for his tiny frail body (he has truly grown into it now). I held him that night for a very long time, curled next to my body, not enough weight to even mention. He looked like a baby bird just hatched from an egg.
As I looked at him I wondered what he would become. This little boy was beginning with such a deficient—not a noticeable, horrific deficient like his older brother, but a negative one just the same (his problems would be revealed later). Perhaps that worked against him—he had no visible marks of abuse, very little of anything to evoke compassionate pity. There was very little about him to endear you.
And yet I love him. Do love him.
He has grown into himself. He is a charming little boy now. Full of personality and wonderful little quirks.
Later that day when the VBS Kick-Off was over and everyone had gone home, there were just a few families left at the church.
The kids who remained were running, trying to expend those last bursts of energy. If they stopped for just a minute they would have collapsed and been asleep from the delightful exhaustion of summer. While running the older children failed to realize Steven was trying to keep up with them; they knocked him down and plowed right over him before they even realized. His chin popped the floor and his cry wailed.
Somehow I managed to be the first one to him and I picked him up and examined him.
Let me see your mouth, Steven. Did you hurt your mouth? I asked.
Immediately he turned to me and opened his mouth wide. His mouth was fine.
He laid his head on my shoulder and snuggled into me. And he stayed there far longer than I had hoped. When he finally raised his head I asked him for a kiss. He turned to me and gave me one without hesitation.
His dad watched the whole interaction.
Oh gosh, he doesn’t ever do that. Rarely. That’s amazing. You really are family.
My heart became too big for my chest.
And the Holy Spirit spoke, just a whisper above the din of the expanding walls of my heart.
I realized I am just like Steven.
Just like him.
I started out this life in Christ as a malnourished baby. There was nothing to commend me. I wasn’t rosy-cheeked and baby-plump. I certainly wasn’t cute. There was nothing in me to endear someone’s affection—nothing. And as I grew my limbs and head didn’t fit my body and I had accidents and lost my front teeth. I was gangly and awkward. Delayed in my maturation. There was nothing in me to evoke compassionate pity.
And yet He loved me.
The Father loves me.
And because of Steven I understand His love a little more.