Monday, May 9, 2011

Beyond my circle of friends

I was recently at a retreat with many of the women from my church and was again reminded of the absolute importance of friendships in our lives. Where would we be without them? Our journey with Grace would have played out much differently had we not been supported the way we were. Each person who encouraged us along the way (and who still are) were undeserved and deeply valued.

Some people are easy to love. Some are more challenging. Why the difference? As a general rule I would say the people we encounter in life who are the most difficult to love are often the ones who most need it... the one's with a painful past, difficult circumstances and challenging mountains to climb. Jesus had close friends in his disciples but also went out of his way to spend time with those some may have seen as unlovable. A tax collector, a prostitute, a broke widow, some annoying kids...

On Sunday we rushed out of church to get to my mother-in-laws in order to spend some time with her before heading back to my grandpa's to celebrate mothers day there with my mom. As we drove though a really busy part of town we passed a young woman who was walking on the side of the road. Her hands were covering her face and it looked like she was crying. She was too thin, had piercings, dreadlocks and no belongings. There was no where to pull over where we saw her, and after we had passed her Joe asked if I saw that she was barefoot. I considered pulling over but we were in a hurry and I kept driving. We pulled into a drive through for lunch on the road and as we pulled out again a bible story slammed into my mind.

There was once a man who was also walking along a road. He was mugged, beat up and left for dead. Several people passed him on the road. A spiritual leader, a doctor, those who you would have expected to give a helping hand. But they were all too busy and self motivated to go out of their way. In the end a man who was least expected to stop did, then went way above and beyond what would have been expected of his station.

I had driven by her. As we pulled out of the parking lot I backtracked. I didn't figure there was any way she would still be there. The area where she was walking was so busy! Someone must have stopped to help. No one had. We pulled up behind her and I got out of the van and called to her. She turned around to face me and as I saw her face for the first time I wanted to weep. She looked so lost, so deeply hurt, so alone. I asked if she was OK, and if she wanted a ride somewhere. She managed to nod yes then broke into sobs. I didn't now what else to do so I hugged her. She told me a bit of her story and said she was trying to get to her parent house, but that they had kicked her out awhile ago. "I don't have anywhere else to go". I gave her a ride after asking if it would be a safe place. She opened up about some of the pain in her life on the way. When I asked, she told me she had already walked 2 miles (in bare feet while crying). Hundreds of cars had to have passed her. No one stopped to help. Why? Really? Then again I drove by too....

Even she was surprised that I had stopped. She said "Thank you. There aren't many people who would have pulled over to help out someone like me." Apparently she was right. I gave her my number when we got to the house and told her to call if she needed a place to stay... that we'd figure something out together. I asked if I could pray for her. She shook her head no, and I said that was OK. She started to get out of the car after thanking me again. Then she stopped and looked back in to look at me. "My name is ___". I maybe didn't pray with her in my car but believe me I haven't stopped praying for her since she told me her name. I'm not sure if I helped her as much as she did me.

Our friends are so important... but there are those outside our circle that need love too. I'd challenge you (as God has challenged me) to ask God to help you see those around you with his eyes and his heart. Maybe he wants to use you to encourage someone who needs it, or give hope to someone feeling hopeless. Helping that girl took me all of 15 minutes and a little extra gas. Maybe it was worth more to her than that though. I hope so.