The Earthly Fragrance of God

The Earthly Fragrance of God

She told me her name was Christian. That was on Sunday.
She told my husband her name was Sinbad. That was on Monday.
Her restaurant behaviors were slightly…no, let’s be truthful here, they were very uncultured.
Her fragrance? At what point do we say someone stinks? OR, can someone that we say reeks to the high heavens actually smell like God?

Let me explain.

I no longer remember the reason why I needed to take a quick trip to the drugstore on a rainy, Sunday evening. What I do remember is that it was supposed to be a dash in and out and as I left the house I knew that I would be back home with my family in less than fifteen minutes.

Parking near the front of the store in the pouring rain, I noticed a woman sitting on the bench along the side of the store, but in my run through the raindrops the only thought that flittered through my mind was that she must be waiting for her ride to come. Reversing my steps just minutes later with purchase in hand, I once again made the quick sprint to the car door, jumped in, turned the key, and as the headlights of my car beamed straight ahead, I ground to a halt. Or should I say, God halted me. With His still, small whisper He said “You can’t just leave her there in the rain.”

It was only then that I began to pay attention. Peering through the window in the dusk, I finally took in the details surrounding the almost unnoticed woman on the bench. She was probably in her fifties, no jacket, a couple small bags clasped close to her as to attempt to keep them dry, and she was obviously trying to push herself back into the bench as much as possible in order to benefit from a slight overhang in the roof far above that might deflect a few raindrops.

Sigh. Please let it be something other than what it appears to be. I want to be home. I could hear myself whining that last phrase. It’s damp and rainy, Lord. I wanna be hooome. My family is waiting. I very much wanted a car to drive up and to see her face light up as her ride finally arrived. I knew in my heart that wasn’t going to happen. Maybe I could just put my car in drive and pretend I never saw her. But this one thing I know without a doubt, there is no peace when we ignore the proddings of the Prince of Peace.

Exiting the car, I took a few steps toward the bench and ask her if she needed a ride. The conversation that followed made it abundantly clear to me that Christian didn’t have a warm, dry home waiting for her that night, but that yes, she would like a ride somewhere. Anywhere. I needed time to think. I was way out of my comfort zone. Time and time again I am made aware that “out of my comfort zone” is the same as “in the presence of God.” If we were comfortable doing what He asked us to do, we wouldn’t need HIm. God wants me to know unequivocally that I need Him. He wants you to know that, too.

Explaining to Christian that I was going to take a little spin down the road to see if there was a motel available, I promised her I would return shortly. A few miles down the street and there was nothing, but it did give me time to compose my thoughts and take a breath. Remembering a motel not too far away in the opposite direction, I turned back, stopped to pick up a soggy Christian, and headed north.

Up to this point, my conversations with Christian had taken place outside in the rain and were very brief. Now, with us both tucked into the smaller boundaries of the car, I was able to asked enough questions to realize this was a bigger story than simply someone down on their luck. She needed help in much bigger ways than a dry roof. Why me, God?

Convincing the motel clerk that it was okay to take in a one night guest without a last name or a home address wasn’t easy, but we worked it out and I paid the fee and walked Christian to her room. As soon as the door was open, she dove straight into the bed, clothes and all, and declared how hungry she was. Noting a microwave, I left with a promise that I would be back shortly with food. She devoured everything I brought back from the grocery store.

I left Christian there that night, tucked in bed assuring her I would stop by on my way to work the next morning. I really had no idea what I was going to do the next morning. I had to work and she would have to leave the motel.

When I checked on her in the morning, it was even more clear to me that Christian, who was now Sinbad, was not safe on her own out on the streets. She needed medical and psychological help. My husband had the day off and was able to check her out of the motel and keep her seemingly insatiable hunger for food at bay in a local restaurant until I was able to use my work contacts at the hospital to locate a public assistance program that could take over. (A restaurant trip that neither he, nor the other patrons might ever forget.)

We never saw Christian again. Occasionally we wonder what happened to her. And at times, I wonder…Did it make a difference? What if she is right back out there on the streets tonight? You can’t help them all, right?

But this I do know. God didn’t ask me to reap a harvest with Christian. He only asked me to get her out of the rain. He loves her with a love larger than life. He died on the cross for her, and would have died on that cross if Christian, sitting on that wet bench in all her stinky layers of clothing was the only soul left on this earth. He would have died for only her.

How then, can I presume to think that I have any more importance?

Two powerful quotes come to mind from the book “Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion” by Gregory Boyle:

“If there is a fundamental challenge within these stories, (the story of Christian) it is simply to change our lurking suspicion that some lives matter less than other lives.”
“I have come to see with greater clarity that the day simply won’t come when I am more noble, have more courage, or am closer to God than the folks (Christian) whose lives fill these pages.”
(words in parenthesis supplied by me)

Who is sitting in the rain tonight, in your world? There is a Father God, who may be asking you to make a difference. It may appear that you have so little to offer, not enough time to offer, and that in the long run, you can’t change a life. But that may not be the mission God has given you. For some, it is. For others, He may simply be asking you to bring someone in out of the rain. If He would have died for that one soul, then He might be wrapped up in those wet, stinky clothes with them.

Hebrews 13:2

For HIs Glory,

Ruth Stewart