By Curtis K. Shelburne
There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear
— 1 John 4:18
The little fellow standing on the corner of the street, just down at the end of the block from San Jacinto Elementary School and his second-grade class, was trying to be a “big boy,” but the tear trails mapping their way down his crimson-flushed cheeks were proof positive that it wasn’t working very well.
Maybe big boys‚ — you know, those third-, fourth-, or fifth-grade boys, or even those sixth-grade pseudo-gods who ruled the elementary school roost, the unchallenged kings of the puerile pecking order — maybe they would have handled the calamity sans tears. He could hardly imagine a sixth-grader in tears.
But he was just a little guy. And he was standing there, waiting on his usual corner for his mom to pick him up, just as usual. But on this particular day he was holding in trembling little hands a damaged paper bag. Several streams of what looked like colored sand were slowly leaking out in hour-glass fashion from several punctures in the paper bag. The smell of perfumed soap crystals bore mute witness that the “sand grains‚” were in fact bath salts.
Those colored bath salts had been carefully layered into a little jar in rainbow fashion to form a second-grader’s gift to his mother for the upcoming Mother’s Day. But that was before the sack and its love-laced contents had been dropped by clumsy second-grade hands, completely accidentally but with complete devastation, to the ground.
The colors of the rainbow, now indistinct, loosed, and effectively destroyed, mingled with shards of glass in the sack, which just a few moments ago had been the humble enclosure for a treasured gift and now was just a sack for trash.
I still remember the tears rolling down my cheeks.
But you know the end of the story, don’t? You know that my tears soon dried as my mother’s kiss and her warm embrace proved yet again that she loved the giver more than the gift and, even broken, my gift was to her, beautiful.
I wasn’t really afraid that day that I might lose my mother’s love. It just broke my heart to break her gift.
But I know now that even big boys and girls sometimes stand in one of life’s corners with tears streaming down their cheeks. And they are indeed afraid.
We’re afraid because we realize that the gift we so wanted to give our Father is broken, and shattered, and lying in pitiful pieces.
We’re afraid because the gift of pure lives that we so wanted to present as the tribute of love now seems anything but pure. Twisted and marred, it’s no longer beautiful.
But we needn’t be.
Our Father, our God of all grace, drives away all fear, kisses away all tears, hugs away all humiliation, and wraps up the tear-streaked beloved in the warm embrace of perfect love.
Curtis Shelburne is minister at 16th and Ave. D Church of Christ in Muleshoe. He can be contacted at: