I See Deadly People
I saw her as I entered the restroom. She was asleep in a chair in the lounge area. (Which always makes me wonder why on earth we would want to lounge around in a restroom anyway–outside of breast feeding and such).
I knew her–not in the sense one knows someone, as I actually have never met her. I don’t know details of her life, what makes her happy or sad. Whether life has had many pitfalls, or it has been smooth sailing, or a combination of the two.
She looked at peace in this moment–a huge improvement from the last time I saw her.
She was barely alive then.
I encountered her at a Wednesday night worship service at least ten years ago.
I caught a glance of her out of my peripheral vision. She occupied a seat a row behind, and maybe three seats to the side, so I saw her without much turn of the head.
By all appearances, she was alive. She stood. Took in oxygen. Clapped to the music as words exited her mouth. Alive. But I wonder if it was only a technicality.
I saw death on her.
When I say this, I mean literal death. Her flesh was falling off. Her skin barely had hold to her body. Inwardly, I cringed, yet outwardly I forced my eyes to divert from the sight of her by keeping focus on something, anything, so she wouldn’t be offended by my behavior.
So, I stared at her hands as they clapped. They seemed larger than normal, and pieces of her barely-held-on-skin flapped in the wind of her rhythm.
How on earth was she even alive? That, and why was no one else bothered by this sight?
As we took our seats after worship, I gazed forward, which gave my eyes momentary relief. But my heart was haunted, and throughout the pastor’s message, I tossed about in my chair, worried over her welfare.
After service one would wonder why I didn’t just turn around and embrace her with concerned dialog. Oh no. Instead I sort of plea bargain with God–that kind I offered when I really didn’t want to do anything of the sort, yet, knew I should do something, I throw out a sliver of a bargain with God in hopes He allows me off the hook.
“If she looks my way God, I will talk to her.”
Luckily, she looked elsewhere, and I was officially off the hook.
Still, after I left, I couldn’t remove the picture engrained in my mind of her appearance.
And, because of my lackluster performance, my guilt-ridden gut began an authentic plea bargain with God–promising to sit with this injured soul the following week.
When Wednesday arrived, with determination in my step, I made my way toward the worship center. But before I could enter, I was stopped by an attractive woman with whom I’m an acquaintance.
She plans to attend service, and asks if she can sit with me.
“NO!” I yell to my internal self. I am on a mission to help the woman who looks as if she is the aftermath of a landmine explosion.
Outwardly though, I accept the invitation.
Still, I scan the room looking for her whereabouts.
She is not there.
Bothered, I sit back and embrace the service.
Eyes closed at the onset of a prayer, I hear a slight whimper originate from the woman next to me, followed by rustling from her seat, as she stands and makes her way to the altar.
I bend over as if engrossed in the deepest of prayers, to avoid the quiet nudge within that STRONGLY suggests I get up and make my way next to her up at the altar.
“But, God, I don’t want to go up there.”
I sense there will be no bargaining my way out of this one. So I make my way to her side, slip my arm around her, and draw her close. Tears stream down her face as I speak words to her I am not entirely sure what they are.
After a few minutes, we both make our way back to our seats, and after service, depart our separate ways.
Sometimes what we physically see is not entirely accurate to the condition underneath the surface.
Could it be God placed this “vision” of a dying woman in my sight so my eyes and heart were open to the encounter of another woman who would stumble upon my path, with the appearance of life, but was actually dying underneath the false physical exterior of beauty?
Or, perhaps it was a combination of the two. One obviously wounded, the other appearing fine. Both in desperate need of Jesus.
So here she is again, all these years later–her outside resemblance vastly different than the one prior. I wonder if it is because her inside now mirrors her outside, which look perfectly content and at peace, or maybe she is like the woman who appeared perfectly fine who is not-at-all so…
Either way, I stand in the gap and intervene on her behalf.
“God, please give us eyes to see the true heart condition of those in our vicinity who need you, and the heart to respond to them with love. “