The Woman I didn't know in a town I don't remember
It was a Sunday morning, sitting on a hard church pew in a town that wasn't mine in a church I had never been. We were just traveling through. We were on vacation and stopped at this church on Sunday morning. The sun shone through the stained glass and you could see the dust particles floating in the colored strands of sunlight. The only other souls I knew there were the ones of my family sitting next to me. Pastor stood and said to shake the hands of those around you. I turned and shook hands, smiling, saying our hello's, and then I turned behind me and I saw her. She was older than I. Maybe in her forties or fifties. It was hard to tell. She looked tired and worn. Her eyes hung heavy and the weight of the world seemed to rest on her shoulders. She sat alone.
She was bathed in colored light and God told me to hug her. He told me to hug her tight and say that my arms were His and He loved her. I froze inside myself. I couldn't be hearing Him correctly. It was just me, my imagination saying this. I am in an un-known church, I am but a young girl, only a teenager, half of her age. Who am I, God? What will she think? I argued with Him until it was time to sit down. I have no idea what the sermon was about now, I just remember telling God all the reasons why I must be hearing wrong. Why I was not the person to do the job. We piled into the car and started driving down the street. The woman walked along the sidewalk beside us, alone, clinging to her ragged Bible in her hands. Again God called. "Tell them to stop, go hug her. Tell her I love her." I sat silently in the back seat as we kept on driving. I prayed that if I had heard God correctly that He would please send another to be His arms. Someone more qualified than I. I have never seen that woman again, from a town I don't remember in a state that isn't mine, but she has walked down the streets of my mind many times since then. Each time I pray that she heard His message that she knows that she is loved and my heart bleeds for the arms I didn't open.
God didn't let up, but neither did my excuses
He came over bearing gifts for Christmas. It was December and family was over. He stood in the living room with his gifts for us and told us about how his stomach had been hurting. He lived next door and would talk to the children and give them popsicles in summer. As he stood there talking God told me to go lay hands on him and pray. "What? Are you serious God, he will think I am a nutjob. I don't even know if he is Christian or not. He might not even believe in you." (as if any of that matters). I didn't listen. I blew God off, again. "I can pray for him right here Lord, in my mind. That is the same anyways isn't it." God didn't let up, but neither did my excuses. I watched as he left our house on his way back to his own and I prayed that my silent prayers would be enough, even though I had been called to pray outloud with hands outstretched.
The next day his aeorta ruptured and he almost died. It was a miracle that he didn't. He was in the hospital for a long while after. Guilt seared my heart and I spent time on knees crying out that my prayers would be enough to save him. Knees planted in carpet, face buried in cushioned chair now soaked with guilt laced tears. "God," I prayed, "If my obedience of prayers out loud may have saved him yesterday, please let my prayers be enough to save him today." He recovered, but has never been the same since. I made goodies in a basket and a card begging his forgiveness for not obeying God's call. Funny how my fears of offending him with prayer vanished so quickly, but it really isn't funny at all. He lived, but I have always wondered what would have been had I stopped arguing and just listened. I had been called to arms again, to hands stretched out and I had failed to listen.
My own insecurities, my own doubts and fears stopped me from doing the most simplest of things, to just reach out my hands. We are a people called to arms. A people called to reach out our hands. Help me, help me Lord to be your arms, your hands. Help me to listen and also to obey.