What I’m about to share with you is in no way for the purpose of placing some halo over my head. It’s a memory that just now came to me, something I haven’t thought of in years. 

I was in the sixth grade. I had a classmate who came from the proverbial wrong side of the tracks. Her family was poor, she dressed in hand-me-downs, and I suspect she didn’t always come to school having had a bath or her hair washed. She was taller than any other girl in our grade, slender to the point of skinny. Thinking back on it now, she was actually very pretty; one of those girls who’d grow up awkward only to become a runway model some day.

If life got better.

But for this girl, who I’ll call Shirley, the difficulties at home were mirrored in the problems at school. She had no friends that I can remember. If we partnered for special projects, no one wanted to double up with her. She was the last to be picked for teams at PE. 

And Christmas was coming. We all brought something for a gift swap the last day before our holiday began. Shirley brought an impossible to disguise, wrapped round rubber ball. One by one we went to the front of the room and one by one that gift was overlooked. Shirley was the last to pick a gift, and she got her own.

As she made her way back to her desk, I watched tears form in her eyes and spill down her cheeks. I looked at my gift, a parfum gift set for girls, and I knew that if I attempted to wear the scent it would turn to stink. At recess I approached Shirley with my gift and said, “Wanna trade?”

“You don’t want this stupid ball,” she said, her eyes cast to her shoes.

She was right there, but I said, “Yes, I do. I’ve wanted one for a long time.”           

I’m Trading My Sorrows

The prophet Isaiah wrote these words:

The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me,
       because the LORD has anointed me
       to preach good news to the poor.
       He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
       to proclaim freedom for the captives
       and release from darkness for the prisoners,

to proclaim the year of the LORD's favor
       and the day of vengeance of our God,
       to comfort all who mourn,

and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
       to bestow on them a crown of beauty
       instead of ashes,
       the oil of gladness
       instead of mourning,
       and a garment of praise
       instead of a spirit of despair.
       They will be called oaks of righteousness,
       a planting of the LORD
       for the display of his splendor.
(Isaiah 61)

Jesus began his ministry and as his fame grew along the countryside. He went back to Nazareth, his hometown, entered the synagogue, opened the scroll handed him, and read the beginning of that very scripture. Then he said, “Today the scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” Isaiah’s words were a messianic prophecy of the One who was to come.

Jesus made a declaration early in his ministry: he was in the trading business. We can come to him with our hand-me-down lives and receive a fragrant gift.

But guess what. We have to be willing to first let go.