What are tears? This was the question that plagued my mind as I began packing her bags. I felt my eyes beginning to fill up. What are tears? I go to her closet and began taking her clothes off the hangers and piling them on the bed. Her polka dot skirt, her zebra print shirt, her cute jean skirt with the embroidered flowers and fringed hem. I hate crying. I try to stop myself, but I can’t. The first tear wells up slowly, quickly slipping down my cheek. Than another and another and another. I touched my eyelashes and they are wet. What are tears? According to Webster’s a tear is simply a drop of salty liquid, which flows from the eye.
However At the College of Apostolic Ministries, my teacher Brother Kelly, emphasized to our class many times how important it is to weep before God. I can hear him so vividly talking to our class, telling us we need to pray for a weeping spirit when we pray. I don’t understand, what could be so important about our tears? Why would God want them? What are tears? I do not know, but I do know that the answer to my question is somehow wrapped around understanding the nature of love.
The cause of my tears is because the little girl I loved was leaving. Hadassah, who was 11-years-old, had lived with my sister and I for two and a half months, but now her mother had arrived from Liberia and she would be living with her. I try to be strong as I continued packing her bags, but with each item I packed, I felt like I was packing a piece of my heart.
How Hadassah came to live with me began about five minutes before church one Sunday morning. As I was walking out of the ladies prayer room and into our sanctuary my phone rang. It was Hadassah, one of the African refugee kids we pick up for church. Most of the African kids that came to church were from pretty rough homes. I quickly answered the phone.
“Hadassah? All I heard was uncontrollable crying. “What’s wrong?" I asked.
“My grandma doesn’t want me,” she sobbed. Hadassah had come to the United States with her grandma when she was seven and I had been bringing her to church for about a year at this time.
“What do you mean she doesn’t want you? What happened?” I asked.
“I was bad,” she said, as if that was something new, “ I mean really, really bad,” she continued, clarifying her self. “I stole stuff and now my grandma doesn’t want me. I am so scared,” she sobbed. “I wanna live with you Mary. Please, please, please let me come live with you!”
I don’t remember the rest of our conversation, but after church I went over and talked to her grandma, after much discussion, it was agreed that it would be best for Hadassah to come live with my sister and I until her mother arrived from Liberia. I never thought twice about taking Hadassah in. It didn’t matter to me that I was a 24-year-old, single, white lady and she was an 11-year-old black girl with a major attitude. If God wanted me to do this, I would.
As soon as Hadassah came to live with us I began working with her on the things she needed to change. Sometimes we would sit with her in my lap, rocking on the rocking chair in our living room.
“I don’t know why I steal things,” she told me. “I want to be good, but I keep being bad,” she sighed.
“You can change,” I would tell her, “but you have to ask God to help you.”
She began to open her heart to me, telling me about the kind of life she had been exposed and hardships she had endured. Hadassah’s own mother was only a year older than I. She said it was typical for an African woman to have kids by 15, often even younger. She said that was scared she would end up like all the African woman she knew, unmarried with many children.
I told her that it didn’t matter what kind of a life she came from, if she yielded her heart to God, He would use her to do great things. Although it may simple, it was working. People were constantly coming to me, telling me what a difference they saw in Hadassah. She felt like God had set her free from her habits of lying, stealing and cursing. It was like a burden had been lifted from her and there was a special sweetness about her now.
With Hadassah around life was always fun and interesting. I’ll never forget when we took her on a family vacation to San Diego. Hadassah and I were out wave jumping in the ocean when all of a sudden a big gulp of water went into her mouth.
“Who put the salt in here?” She said spitting it out, disgusted.
“God did,” I said laughing.
“Oh, well if God did it then I guess its okay,” she said.
Every night we read the bible together, and prayed, always remembering to ask God to bring her mother here quickly. Hadassah had her own room but she always preferred sleeping on the floor beside my bed.
One night I was drifting off to sleep when Hadassah woke me…
“Mary,’ she whispered. I tried to pretend I was sleeping. “Mary,” she whispered again, louder this time.
“What?” I said groaning in annoyance.
“I wanna sing like a black girl,” she said. I sighed.
“So what do you want me to do? Your black, just start singing!”
“Teach me!” She said.
“How in the world do you expect me to do that?” I said sitting up in bed now.
“Dude Hadassah,” I said laughing. “I wish I could sing good for a white girl and you want me to teach you to sing like a black girl?”
“Oh come on Mary,” she said.
“Okay, okay,” I said giving in, “Repeat after me, Oh happy day,” I said belting out my best black imitation. This resulted in the two of us laughing hysterically.
“You don’t sound like no black girl,” she said laughing.
“See,” I said, “I told you I couldn’t teach you!”
Our lives continued on together, in a comfortable, fun way. But sooner than we had anticipated her mother arrived from Africa. We had prayed for this to happen every night before bed. Now it seemed like God had answered our prayers to quickly.
I remember the two of us sitting on the floor in my classroom at church, sobbing. I pulled her onto my lap.
“I don’t wanna go back Mary!”
“No matter what happens Hadassah, I love you,” I said. “and you’ll always be my baby.”
“How can I be your baby? You did not born me,” she said falling back into her broken English.
“Hadassah,” I said, “I may not have physically given birth to you, but I borned you in my heart!”
“I don’t wanna go back,” she said sobbing again.
“I know,” I said softly. I know, I know, I know. As we sat there crying, our tears fell onto each other, binding our hearts forever.
After Hadassah went back, I watched sadly as she slowly began to slip back into her old ways. She is 12 now and beginning to grow into a young lady. She is absolutely beautiful, but the childlike sweetness is gone, replaced by and exterior of false happiness. My heart tightens as I see her in her tight shirts and short-shorts.
It’s a Sunday evening and I am with my friend Jacqui, seeing if any of the kids want to come to church. I see Hadassah out playing basketball
“Hey Hadassah!” I say, “Give me a hug!” She comes running over and I pull her into an embrace. She smiles as she runs her fingers through my waist-length hair and tells me I look pretty with my hair down.
“I am praying for you,” I say.
“Thank you,” she says softly. I touch her cheeks and feel the smoothness of them; they are still just as soft as I remember.
“You know that you are still my baby, right Hadassah?”
“Yes, I know.” she says. We look at each other for a minute, remembering. Then the moment is broken. She reaches into my zebra print purse and grabs my last two sticks of sweet watermelon gum, “Can I have these?” She asks.
“Yeah, sure,” I say smiling. We say goodbye, then instead of going to church, she zooms off, in her super-mini, mini skirt and continues playing basketball.
The next day is Monday. Another morning has come and as I arise from my slumber,I know what I must do. I wipe my sleepy eyes and drag my body to the living room. I feel like going back to sleep, but there is something that compels me to go on. I plop down on the brown rug and I begin to pray. And as I pray I begin thinking about Hadassah.
“Oh God,” I cry out. “Get a hold of my little girl.” I begin to feel that familiar trembling. “Watch over her Jesus. Send your angels to stand guard over her.” I feel tears beginning to fill up in my eyes. “Don’t let her forget God,” A tear slips out of my eye. “When she listens to that worldly music, remind her of singing ‘I got the Holy Ghost’. When she puts on immodest clothes, remind her of the day she gave all that up. When she feels the heaviness of sin, reassure her that there is forgiveness at an alter of repentance.”
My nose is running as the tears continue to fall. I touch my eyelashes and they are wet. I taste the tears, they are salty. But its okay, I don’t mind the tears now, because I know that God put them there, just like He put the salt in the ocean. And although so much has changed with Hadassah, there is one thing that remains the same; I still love her.
What are tears? Now I am beginning to understand. I am starting to see why Brother Kelly kept emphasizing the importance of them in prayer and I know why God wants them. What are tears? Tears are so much more than just a salty liquid that flows from the eyes. Tears are what happen when you love someone so much it begins to leak out.
*Hadassah’s name was changed to protect the privacy of that individual.