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A Girl Called Norman

“Tragedy has struck…”

My stomach churned as I felt an odd sense of what those words might mean. There were no details in the Facebook post, but in my mind I immediately sensed at a gut level what had occurred. I hoped I was wrong and continued scrolling.

This morning, I stumbled upon the post that proved me right and confirmed my fears.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. This story doesn’t begin with a Facebook post. It really begins twelve years ago, but we’ll start with the chapter with which I’m most familiar. This past June, Zach and I had the opportunity to represent our undergraduate alma mater at the church youth camp Zach had attended as a teenager. I had visited the camp once before as a college representative, and both of us were excited to be back.

The week before we left, I began praying that God would use me to lead the young girls I would meet toward Himself and His grace. He answered that prayer by bringing me girls full of hurt. My heart broke as I listened to a few girls talk calmly, even flippantly, about being sexually abused by family members and how their mothers left because “she didn’t love us anymore.” So matter of fact. So…clinical.

And then, there was my Norman. My family has always used the name “Norman” to refer to a person in our lives that God sends our way. This person is placed in our path for us to minister to them, but often their personality clashes with our own or leaves us feeling worn down and annoyed. Even so, we meet them with the knowledge – a nudge by God Himself, perhaps – that we have been called to love this person and thus show them the love God has for them. The name comes from a book and movie that I watched in the early 2000s, and the idea has stuck with us all these years later.

This Norman was very unlike the original Norman from the story; mine was a petite, active, and inquisitive pre-teen girl with curly blonde hair rather than the large, lumbering male that inspired the moniker. Their need for love and attention was the same. Throughout the week I would find her plopped on my bed with another question about why she had to follow the dress code or if her inner thoughts and feelings were normal. I sat with her in some of the services and tried to help her focus on the Word of God. I’m not sure I was as patient as I could have been, but even so she took to me. I even had an opportunity to pray with her when she felt doubts about her relationship with God.

Fast forward to this week and the foreboding post I saw. When I read the word tragedy and the name of her youth group in the same sentence, I immediately saw her face, felt intuitively that tragedy had come to her. Unfortunately, I was right. For reasons unknown to me, my Norman lost her life to suicide this week. She wasn’t even a teenager yet.

I don’t really have words to provide application for this post. Not today. Not other than to say, love your Normans, friends. Love those who annoy you, who cling to you, who are so very, very different. Love them most of all.

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