❝Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian; he led his flock beyond the wilderness, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of a bush; he looked, and the bush was blazing, yet it was not consumed.❞ Exodus 31:1-2
Reflection by Karen Smith
As an only child, I had a fairly sheltered life. I knew there were poor people and helped my father buy Christmas clothes for needy children, but I faced none of the everyday lives of those in poverty and certainly none of the ugly side of life.
Shortly after I graduated from college, I applied for a job and was hired by the Department of Family and Children’s Services as a Financial Eligibility Agent. After a year, my bosses offered me a job as a Child Protective Service agent. I went home to pray and discuss the job with my husband Morris Wade. The next morning, fully prepared to refuse the job, I found that they had moved me into the job where they needed help immediately.
Soon I was living the needs of these children: abused, neglected, and beaten with belts or extension cords. Many of the children were left to care for themselves for 10-15 hours a day. There were starving babies, aged 2-3 years old, weighing 5-10 pounds, whose lives were hanging on by a thread. Some lived in homes with openings in the walls and floors in all seasons, with few clothes. My job was to protect these children and to try to change the behavior of parents who knew nothing about how to care for their children. Many times I took children away from their parents until their homes were made safe. These were not just poor people; there were rich and well-educated people, too. I realized during this job that I was in the place God needed me to be.
After ten years of this work, after two babies had been murdered by their mothers, and I was handling 60 families, I became seriously depressed. I would go to my job and was immediately sick to my stomach. I would go home and sleep all day. This was repeated daily until I went to my doctor. He gave me some medicine and told me if I did not feel better to return to his office at 5:00 p.m. the next day. I did not know what other treatment he had to offer me, but I was desperate enough to be in his office the next afternoon as he recommended.
After everyone else in the office had left for the day, the doctor sat down and began to pray. After a while he asked me to join him, and then he invited me to go with him to a gospel sing. I don’t know if I was more surprised to find myself in a strange and wonderful place of Christian worship so outside of my own tradition, or that my doctor had been the one to invite me. All I know is that something happened to me that evening in that worship space of joy-filled music that I can’t quite explain. My depression disappeared. The heavy burden of carrying all those children was lifted off my shoulders. I was burned up but I was not consumed, and I went back to work with a new strength, full of the power of a surprising God.