“The Long and the Short of it”
Her history said she’d never change…
Christ said He wanted to give her life and so much more!
Many years ago, a very hardened young woman sauntered through the doors of our Teen Challenge program – a woman I will never forget. Though she was just in her late twenties, she was extremely entrenched and high up in the gang life. She ran guns and drugs across the border; had drug houses on both sides of the border; and was the one her “crew” all answered to. She had already served time in prison in Mexico and had a felony arrest record here in the states; not to mention numerous arrests under twenty-eight aliases. While in prison in Mexico, she fought in the ring; and had a history of extreme violence. And by the way, she was all of 4’11”.
Shorty indicated she wanted to make things right with God and man. In order for her to make things right with man she needed to take care of warrants. In order for her to take care of her warrants she would need make a trip to San Diego-an eight and a half hour drive from the center.
When I took her to San Diego to try to sort out her legal issues, I met her family. When I met her father he openly showed me his disdain. He made it clear he was opposed to me helping her to get out of the gang lifestyle. He was a leader in the same gang and felt it was a slap in his face for her to decide to change. To further show his disrespect, I was not allowed to sit on the furniture or speak to him when we were at the family home. It was quickly apparent he only allowed me in the house because he wanted to see his daughter; and he only wanted to see her to try to get her to change her mind. Several of her siblings sat and glared at me, and tried to intimidate me through cold stares and aggressive body language. As I looked around the room I saw several weapons and to be candid, kind of wondered what I had gotten myself into. We had to go to the house to pick up some legal documents and to try to find her younger sister who was gravely ill and completely “strung out”. We left as quickly as we could, but it wasn’t until the next morning that we were safely back on the road.
By leaving with me that day, Shorty knew she was cutting off relationship with her family and knew her fellow “gang” members would now have it in for her. So why did she want to do this? She had accepted Christ, and really did want to change. But as you can imagine, with her background, she did not take to being told what to do. This caused her a lot of problems in the program, to the point that I eventually had to call her into my office to ask her why she was still at Teen Challenge. She looked up at me, tears in her eyes, and said, “I want to change. I don’t want to be this way no more!” I told her that if that was true, she would have to be willing to do whatever it took to change. And that she needed to realize change would not happen overnight!
Though Shorty had accepted the Lord, she did not have a clue how to “surrender to God”; how to change her way of behaving; or how to begin to “trust” God or man. But, guess what? She did change! Minute by minute; day by day; as she grew in her relationship with the Lord – she changed! She changed to the point that she became a leader in our Teen Challenge program. She would go to jails, prisons and juvenile halls to share her story. With tears streaming down her face, she would declare to them how special they were in God’s eyes and that God accepted them just the way they were. When reviled by someone, the once violent young woman, would now answer back with the love of Christ. She became an incredible light to those whose lives were still so dark.
Shorty had been born with a genetic disease, the same one which had caused the early death of her mother. She had also weakened her precious body by years of alcohol and drug abuse. About six years after committing her life to the Lord, Shorty died and I had the incredible privilege of ministering at her funeral. Unbeknownst to me, she had been corresponding with her family, sharing with them all the Lord had done for her. I have to admit I was a little nervous when her family came to her service. I especially did not know how her father would respond to me, but I knew I wanted to tell him how sorry I was for his loss. When he saw me, he quickly grabbed me, and through deep sobs, told me that he was so grateful his little girl had changed her life. He had not accepted Christ yet, but he stated that he knew what she had was real!
Shorty was small in stature, but grew to stand very tall in Christ. Had she lived a perfect life after accepting Christ? No… But she knew where to turn- she knew to turn to her Lord and Savior. She also knew that one of her most deadly enemies was her pride – something she openly admitted; and something to which she had to die to daily. When wrong, she quickly took responsibility; asked forgiveness and switched it up. Another lesson she learned came through faith and experience. She knew that she knew that her Lord would never let her down! Though, just like me, far from perfect, I firmly believe my dear friend Shorty is up in heaven praising God and enjoying all that Christ had in store for her.
So what are the life lessons I want us to take away from Shorty’s life? I want us ….
- To realize none of us: ourselves or those we are desperately praying for are too far gone for Christ to reach.
- To see how that we can love God with all our hearts and really want to change, but that change does not happen easily or overnight. Change is a process. Change comes only as we daily surrender our lives to the power of the Holy Spirit and walk in obedience to His Word.
- To understand that none of us will be perfected until the day we see Christ face to face in glory! Know if you are struggling that if you confess your sins, He is faithful and just to forgive you and cleanse you from all unrighteousness.
- And lastly, none of us are promised tomorrow. Shorty sure did not plan on going home so early, but she did. May we do all we can for Christ; share His love to those He puts in our paths; and know that it will be worth it all when we stand before our Lord.
Well, my friends, that’s kind of the “long and the short of it”: a few lessons from the short life of Shorty… lessons that will hopefully have a “long” term effect on all of us.