Snapping on my seat belt and turning on the engine, I kept hearing words filtering through my thoughts. What was it? What was it they had been shouting about?
….son …..your son…
Something wasn’t right about the view I now had of her trailing behind him as I watched them go further and further down the road. She didn’t want to go with him. I knew that much.
She had looked at me. Oh, why didn’t I help her?
As I pulled from the parking lot, needing to turn left toward home, I hesitated. Looking down the road to the right, I could still see them. How could I just leave her? How could I just drive home, eat pizza, and go on as if nothing had happened? Pausing ever so briefly, I changed my turn signal and turned right.
It was only moments before I saw that they had entered the main parking area of a small community of about a dozen tiny cottages. Stopped in their tracks, the entire scene was a duplicate of the one I had just witnessed up the street. He, in a rage flailing his arms, his finger wagging in her face, ordering her to move. She, with apparent fear to go another step with him, and yet this turmoil on her face…an unwillingness to leave and run for safety.
I turned my car into the parking lot, but only barely. Like a heartbeat the message of fear pounding in my ears, “What if he turns his anger on you for helping her?” I am ashamed to say I wanted to help her, but I didn’t want to endanger myself.. I stopped just as the tail of my car was off the road and not one foot further.
Rolling down my window, I called across the lot to her.
“Do you want a ride?”
She looked at me.
“Do you want a ride? Please come get in my car. I’ll take you anywhere.”
She turned toward me. One step. Stop.
“Please,” I pointed toward the seat beside me, “Please come. Right here. I’ll take you.”
I could see it. She wanted to come. But she was saying something, and though I had stayed what I considered a safe distance away, she spoke with enough urgency and I barely made out the words. But I did hear them.
“My baby. I have to go get my baby.” Oh, God! She had a baby. Left behind in her flight.
Yes. She had wanted that ride all along. She needed my help from the first time I saw her. But she was a mother first. And she wasn’t leaving her son behind.
By this time I had 911 on the line. And by this time, the angry man, who had been ignoring me, snarled at me. “She doesn’t need a ride.” It was a declaration and he expected no argument.
The officer on the line was asking questions: what was happening, location, description, my name, my number…and in those moments of focusing on the conversation something happened.
I lost her. As I shifted my concentration off the conversation with the police officer and back onto the scene before me, she was gone. He was gone. They were gone. And I had missed it.
Desperately I searched with my eyes. Where was SHE? She said she was going to get the baby. What direction? Where…where…where? Did they enter one of the cottages? How could I have lost her? And the officer, in my ear, is asking me to leave the scene. He instructed me to go to a nearby specific location where he would meet me. Where WAS she? Slowly, I pulled out as instructed, eyes searching.
At the agreed upon destination, a long wait ensued. Another couple who had witnessed the event joined me. They checked in with the police department as I paced. The report was that officers were cruising the cottage area but couldn’t find anyone.
More waiting. Eventually an officer pulled up and asked me more questions. He said he was going back. He would search some more, but that I should go home.
Home. Crying as I drove, the drumbeat of fear turned to the thud of failure. I had failed her.
Home. To a meal that no longer tasted good and to a bed on which I could only toss and turn.
In the fear, born in me, I had lost sight of my faith in an all powerful God. And in losing sight of God, I lost sight of the woman who needed me. Why hadn’t I bridged that gap when she first came running my direction? Why did I choose personal safety over compassion? When she said she needed to get the baby, why didn’t I leave my security, take her by the hand, and say “I will go with you. I will help you get your baby.”
How does one write a positive ending to a devotional when failure seems to be underlying theme of the story used as illustration?
The rescue of the young lady and her baby would have easily made a perfect spiritual application. Follow up visits, Bible studies, introducing her to the church…the stuff written about in conference newsletters and shared as testimony at campmeeting.
How then? Because the God of my successes is also the God of my failures. He hasn’t for one moment neglected that young woman just because I didn’t hit the ball out of the park when given the opportunity to reflect Christ to her. At that moment, I lost an opportunity to be strengthened in my faith and walk with God, and she lost that opportunity as well. But HE is still here, for both of us. And HE will give both of us, time and time again, moments when we can see Him, experience Him, and trust Him, when the scene around us is telling us to fear. And as we timidly take steps toward faith instead of steps back into fear, God’s boldness will shine through us and we will appear as courageous warriors!
I don’t know her name, but I pray for her and her child. God brought her to me that day. Though I failed at that moment, I will not continue failing her. I will lift her up over and over and over knowing that no prayer goes unheard and resting assured that God will never fail her and that my prayers will act as an unseen, unknown lifeline in her life, ever drawing her toward the One who will never hurt her.
Be strong and of a good courage,
do not fear nor be afraid of them;
for the Lord your God, He is the One who goes with you.
He will not leave you nor forsake you.