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Deborah and the Agape of the Cross

Posted Mar 07, 2013 by Cristina Mendoza in The Son of God
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The first time I saw her she was at the emergency room in the local hospital. I was there with a badly swollen sprained ankle. Suddenly I did not even remember the pain, because I could not take my eyes off of her. She was loudly demanding something, and her words were unintelligible. She was nervously wheeling her chair back and forth in the waiting area. Finally someone brought her a sandwich and I could tell her table manners had much to be desired. Above all she was so unattractive, in her mid-fifties perhaps, very skinny, and she did not look clean. Her toothless face depicted anger and pain that I knew I could not understand, and her facial gestures and loud voice were very annoying.

The x-ray technician called my name and I went about my business. On my way out feeling awkward in the crutches, I felt even worse when I took one last glance at this woman. Somehow through the next few days her toothless face would hunt me, and I would think “she probably was on meth, that’s how she lost all her teeth.”

A couple of months later, on a Sabbath morning, I went to a shelter to pick up a homeless church member. Then I saw her. She was coming out of the house into the front yard to smoke a cigarette. This time she was very clean, but was still making those facial gestures that bothered me, as if her jaw could not stay in place. She waved saying hello, and I managed to wave back at her.

On the way to church I found out she was born deaf. That was the reason for her loudness. I tried to forget her and had a very pleasant Sabbath surrounded by wonderful, kind, loving believers. In my eyes all beautiful externally, articulate, well educated people with good manners and intelligent conversation.

I did not go back to that shelter, but three weeks ago while driving to town there she was again. She was wheeling her chair on the sidewalk and I recognized immediately that she was far from home. Something within me had me stop. I put her wheelchair in the car and took her back to the shelter home. She asked me for help with her video – telephone, and I ended up spending a couple of hours with her. The following week I took her some needed items from the church community center, and I got to know her better.

She told me about the school for the deaf she attended. About her three abusive ex-husbands, her two children, mother and other family members that wanted nothing to do with her. (Well, she is embarrassing after all!). And no, she had never done any drugs or alcohol, let alone meth. (I am so ashamed!). She had lost her teeth due to cigarette smoking, which she has done for 43 years. She had no friends, her church was not helping, and the landlady was charging way too much for her rent (she wasn’t there as a homeless person, but as a tenant). She was on SS and could hardly afford food, and of course the cigarettes took a chunk of her meager earnings.

She showed me her room, meticulously arranged and spotlessly clean. On top of a table was a picture of an attractive young woman, smiling beautifully at the camera. I asked if that was her daughter. She said, “no, that’s me when I was 16.” . It was unbelievable. There she was now, only 54 years old, looking like 70; her face had lost the innocence and purity reflected in the picture. Life, some heartless men, and other  equally cruel people, had battered her to a point that none of the features in her face even slightly resembled the gentleness and sweetness of the beautiful young lady in the photo.

That was the last time I saw her. I wrestled with the thought of inviting her to church that day. But I found a million excuses: “She will shock the church members, because her appearance is so uninviting” “They are not ready for people like her.” “Besides, we don’t have anyone that knows sign language.” And on and on I went, until I cried myself to sleep late that night.  

“Agape loves the ugly” says pastor Wieland. Would agape love the toothless, unattractive, uneducated, loud person as well? Would agape forget what the kind people at the church (most of them college graduates, well-to do Seventh Day Adventists) would think, and take someone like that to church? She has no beauty that one should desire her. She cannot carry on a normal conversation. She could not eat at the table without making others stare at her. Even her laughter screams out unimaginable pain, disappointment and heart ache.

Agape, says elder Wieland, is the love that died for all people on the face of the earth. Toothless or not, beautiful or not, educated or not. Agape is the love that died the second death in that horrible cross, dying not for my favorite people in my family or friends circles, but for all. Agape does not compare, does not see some better than others, it has no regards for good manners, education, background, wealth or titles. “Agape just loves” says elder Wieland, “well, just because it’s agape.”

I never invited Deborah to church. That is her name. That last time I saw her I sensed her pain, her frustration in trying to communicate with me. She found a pad and wrote notes, and I wrote back. I know she hurts, and in my utter selfishness, because agape is not part of my experience, I cannot pass it on. It is much easier to take her food and clothing and give her a ride home. My Saviour the patient, the kind, the lovely One, the agape One, the Lover of all people, He would have invited her. Even though I’m not beautiful or well educated or boast of perfect anything, and have some problems with communication myself to the point where I can annoy others, I still did not invite her. I did not invite her, in spite of being cognizant of all my faults and failures, and of the fact that I am just another sinner with many issues, holding on to totally undeserved grace one second at a time, I did not manage to invite her.

I claim to understand to an extent, the Identity of the Father and the Son, but I recognize that without agape it is just another doctrine. Paul says so himself: “And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand [intellectually] all mysteries [even the mystery of godliness], and all knowledge… and have not love [Agape], I am nothing.” I don’t know dear fellow believer that I will invite Deborah to church if I see her again. Would you? Here is what she says as she sits in a dark room, in her silent, almost impenetrable world of loneliness and pain. I can sing the song all day long, but I must confess with sadness that I really don’t “know” the song.  

"What Love Really Means"

(You can listen to it here)


He cries in the corner where nobody sees
He's the kid with the story no one would believe
He prays every night, "Dear God won't you please
Could you send someone here who will love me?"

Who will love me for me
Not for what I have done or what I will become
Who will love me for me
'Cause nobody has shown me what love
What love really means

Her office is shrinking a little each day
She's the woman whose husband has run away
She'll go to the gym after working today
Maybe if she was thinner
Then he would've stayed
And she says:

Who will love me for me?
Not for what I have done or what I will become
Who will love me for me?
'Cause nobody has shown me what love, what love really means

He's waiting to die as he sits all alone
He's a man in a cell who regrets what he's done
He utters a cry from the depths of his soul
"Oh Lord, forgive me, I want to go home"

Then he heard a voice somewhere deep inside
And it said
"I know you've murdered and I know you've lied
I have watched you suffer all of your life
And now that you'll listen, I'll tell you that I..."

I will love you for you
Not for what you have done or what you will become
I will love you for you
I will give you the love
The love that you never knew