When we first moved to Sierra Leone in November, 2009, we rented a home in Allen Town, a suburb of the capital city, Freetown. Here we lived behind a 10 foot cement-block “wall fence” which had razor wire coiled on top, a large gate for the vehicle, and a small pedestrian gate. The “yard” of our compound was cement. This was city life for 6 months until we were able to move into the home we built in our remote village setting of Baomahun. Being a country girl, our new environs suit me much better but there were certain advantages to being in the city. There the children are more adventurous with the foreigners, their life exposures are broader, and their English is typically better. During our stay in Allen Town we had many encounters with the children which were always instructive to me, as this journal entry details.
Date of original journal entry: December 2009
Psalm 45:11 So shall the king greatly desire thy beauty: for he is thy Lord; and worship thou him.
Psalm 29:2 . . . Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.
“They are beautiful because you care for them.” The quiet comment, in marginally broken English, quite startled me; I was surprised first by the observation itself but also by its clear articulation. Halmatu, a lovely 12 year old girl, was in our courtyard where a group of neighborhood children had gathered to watch our dogs, Goodness and Mercy, play football (soccer). Our large gate was open and the kids were excitedly drifting in for the regular afternoon playtime. Though fearful of their size, the children had come to like our dogs.
Halmatu’s simple statement that sultry afternoon didn’t escape me; it has stuck into my heart like a small irritating bur. I don’t think of it often but on occasion it works itself into a position that digs in, requiring me to consider it.
I then begin to ponder how our dogs are cared for and what it is that makes them beautiful.
In the hands of the wrong master, all the potential of an otherwise good dog is completely lost. The dogs in Sierra Leone are most miserable creatures because they have the wrong master. They are left to fend for themselves; they have little protection from storm or harm. They scour the trash heaps to supplement their meager rations; they’re boney and undernourished. They are ladened with sores, disease, parasites, and irritating insects of all sorts. They are wild, fearful animals beaten down by the men who own them. They serve no true purpose in life and they just keep breeding. In short – they are not cared for.
By contrast, our boys, red and copper Australian shepherds, have soft, lush, well-groomed fur that the children enjoy petting. They are strong and playful because they are properly fed and exercised. They are healthy because we keep them clean. Their eyes are bright and eager.
In addition to all of that, they are a pleasure to be with because they are well disciplined. They receive correction when necessary so they know what behavior is acceptable. They are not the menace the other dogs are allowed to be because they are ordered in the way they should go. They are obedient. They do not fear the rod of correction because it’s held in the hand of love.
As I contemplate these thoughts, the parallel becomes obvious.
I am a child of the King. I am to be beautiful because He cares for me. I am to be a reflection of His great love to those who are yet in the hands of the wrong master; those who eat the refuse of the world; those whose lives are devoid of true purpose and whose full potential can not be realized. I am to walk in His way and respond quickly and obediently to His correction. It’s always administered in love – for my good and His glory.
Further searching my heart I ask myself some questions. Am I shedding the evidences – both outward and inward – of my former master and demonstrating the care of my new master? Do I desire to dine on His word that I may be nourished and strong? Am I applying its balm to the sores and sin-sickness caused by the world? Do I pull away my shoulder or stiffen my neck in rebellion to His correction? The list could go on; the self examination is profitable. Holiness is beautiful to my King and he greatly desires me to live in that beauty.
Halmatu unwittingly made a simple statement that has deeply effected my heart. Thank you, Father, for using my goofy dogs and a sweet little girl to remind me that I am to be beautiful because You care for me.