I Have Seen Another*
I met a twenty-something woman who looked at the fourteen-year-old pregnant girl and quietly said, “I once walked in her shoes.” And I saw the woman’s outer garments, those things that are seen by the world—she was a competent and compassionate nurse. I saw a woman pulled together.
Expecting a neatly wrapped answer, a fairy tale ending, I asked, with great hope in my voice, “Where is the baby?”
And she dropped her head and answered, “my parents had me get an abortion.” I saw, for a fleeting moment, the girl who was undone, the child who was broken. It was an intimate portrait that I will never forget.
We hugged and cried that day, just for a minute, and then we both eased back into our roles and went on about our business. It was only a moment. I often think of her.
How quickly I forget that the ministry of service is often birthed from great pain and sorrow.
I Have Heard
It wasn’t long ago that I recommended him to a woman I had only recently met. We were visiting with a mutual friend who was in town and had decided to kill two birds with one stone by gathering several of us together at the local Starbucks for a “ya-ya”, as she called it. The conversation had already encompassed a couple of divorces, and the problem of setting boundaries with grown children over issues of babysitting grandchildren and dealing with parents who are pack rats, when the subject of my son’s substance abuse issues came up.
And so I told her, that woman, about the man, this counselor, who had helped me maintain at least a semblance of sanity as I was coping with my son’s issues. Someone else had already given her his name. I sang his praises. And then I remembered one tiny little thing that might offend the woman I was talking to, for she was a delicate Southern Christian woman, and he was an occasionally abrasive Yankee man who sometimes used this one particularly offensive word. So I warned her: “Now he does cuss a little bit, you’ll have to overlook that and know that he knows what he is doing. His heart is in what he does. He is a Christian man.” (That is how I had bragged on him, until I remembered the one tiny little thing).
And here is what she said: “Well, gosh, I imagine he does cuss. That’s understandable. Look at the kind of people he works with”.
Excuse me? Okay. What kind of people does he work with? Those kind of people, that is what kind. Not people like us, no, those kind of people.
How often I forget that one cannot truly minister to another human being if they think in terms of those kind of people (whoever those kind of people might be) as being worse than they themselves are. Those kind of people (whoever those kind of people might be) can smell that kind of haughty attitude from a mile away, and they want no part of that.
I Have Observed
It was a bit of a fluke that we were even there at the gospel concert, my daughter and I, but we were there, in a little country church, at the gospel concert, singing "I’ll Fly Away" with the two big-haired widow women beside us who were doing their best to outshine each other as lead backup singer. Yes, I must admit that I thought to myself as I tried to drown the warbling songbirds’ voices out of my ears—hmmm, blog fodder, but when the women settled down, and the concert started, what I saw was beauty in the oddest place.
His left arm was missing. I mean his entire left arm – no stub at the shoulder – nothing. I noticed it when he got up to go to the bathroom during the concert. He put his sports coat on and his wife tucked the empty sleeve into his pocket for him. When he came back he sat down directly in front of us.
At the beginning notes of one of the songs, I heard him utter “oh”, like he had been struck, and he looked over at his wife. Apparently that particular song meant something special to him. It held a personal connection to his life. And I watched him sit up straighter and he leaned forward as if not to miss a single word or note. In the time it took for the quartet to sing that song, I observed a personal moment between this man and his God. For me, there was great beauty in that moment.
As I watched and took it all in, I thought how sad it was that this man had no way to clap along with the lively music and no way to express his appreciation. So when the song was finished, I applauded heartily. I wanted to be that man’s hands, praising God, who is able to touch each one of us right where we are, in whatever shape we are in. I thought to myself, this is how God gives sound to one hand clapping. He comes to one who is observing from a distance, and invites her to join in by asking, “Would you like to help this child of mine? Go ahead and clap. I'll sit with you while you do.”
I don’t remember which song it was that “got” the old man, but I know which one it was for me:
There will be grace,
Grace to make it through this trial.
There will be strength,
strength to walk another mile.
There will be hope,
when I’ve done all I can.
I’m glad to know,
It’s in the Savior’s hands.
Salt of the earth? Sometimes the concept is still a little blurry to me. All I know is that on some days, we are the ones being seasoned through the various trials of our lives. And on other days, we are the ones who are the seasoning, the taste of grace in another's life.
(* "I Have Seen" was inspired by Penni's post, entitled "14", on February 10.)