No meeting is by chance. If I never believed that before, I certainly believe that today.
I was in the store buying cold medicine for my son when a young lady and I began a conversation. I’m apparently one of those people who others find easy to talk to. She started crying telling me about her life and when she did, something inside of me quivered. Everything she said that had happened sounded a lot like my life. She started with her childhood in painful, familiar detail, how she had been treated differently than her other siblings ultimately being robbed of her birthright as the oldest child, having a sick child with very little family support, divorced, financial issues, church hurts…I mean everything she said paralleled me. Anger and resentment oozed from every word. I could feel her pain. Listening to her started a rewind of everything I have been through and the pain associated with it.
This woman had anger and bitterness all over her. It was palpable. Her countenance shouted it and her tone of voice certainly did. She smelled of alcohol, pupils dilated. I asked her if she used to which she quickly, almost proudly confessed that was the only way she could live with her “stuff” adding she would have killed herself long ago had it not been for her children. With those words, I got it.
I’ve learned when unusual things happen like this to look for what I call “the God-side”. I believe everything happens – including those we meet – is for a reason. I prayed a quick silent prayer for Him to show me and don’t let me miss it. This woman was me; I would have been her had God not saved me. For a brief moment, God let me see who I would have been had it not been for the intervention of His grace.
Admittedly, there are days when the hurt over what has happened in my life captures me. Who doesn’t have those days? I shed a few tears and remember…but I don’t stay there long. I choose not to. Is it easy? No. It would be easier to wallow and stay mad, hurt and disappointed. It’s work to get up when you fall isn’t it? You have to defy gravity and make a physical effort to get back on your feet. The choice is yours. You can stay down, because you know it won’t feel good getting up, or you can prepare yourself and make the effort to stand.
After she finished speaking I offered to talk with her more if she wanted to, and I took her down the road for coffee and a bite to eat. When we got settled it was my turn to share. I told her how literally everything she said was pretty much what I had been through, too. Her eyes widened and she asked what I had waited to hear. “How then, if all that has happened to you, are you so happy and positive?” There it was…the reason for the encounter. She needed someone who identified with her, her life, her pain one on one to tell her about The Difference Maker and I needed to remember why I wasn’t consumed with anger and regret.
This being a Christian…this faith we so freely shout about is hard work sometimes. Life is painful and extremely unfair. Those we are supposed to be the safest with often turn out to be our greatest betrayers. Our circumstances can suck the very will to live right out of us if we let it. I’m learning daily that perspective is everything. How we look at things…and looking for God and HIS will and perspective while going through something can discourage us OR it can make us want to believe there is actually something bigger, something good that can be found in our pain. I believe that’s part of the “work” of our salvation.
After our talk she had lightened up a little, and actually smiling and laughing. I prayed with her and told her God was on her side and with her not against her. I told her everything that had happened in my life and hers, I believe, is to bring us to saving faith in Jesus and getting closer to Him. Once we understand that everything here is temporary and He is eternal and all of it is used to draw us closer to Him, it makes what we go through less devastating and gives it purpose. The human-ness in us begs for a reason. He is the difference in our lives, only He brings good out of the bad and I wouldn’t want to live without Him – it just wouldn’t be worth it. She said I had given her something to think about, that if that were true it would all be worth it.
The more I think about that woman, the more profound that encounter becomes. I got to see who I would be, what I would be had I not been saved. God allowed me to see reflections of grace in my life…how He had really changed my heart, my attitude, my countenance. I could have been her in every way because that’s where I was headed.
I would say there are many people around all of us that are living riddled with anger, bitterness and brokenness. They need our compassion but they also need to know the difference God has made in us. Tell them and be sure you pay attention to the reflection you see. That could have been you.
“Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4:16 (NASB).