The chair next to me is empty. From the hours of 9:50 – 11:05 every Tuesday and Thursday morning it is usually occupied by Linda. But, this Thursday it is empty. A thought runs through my mind — I quickly dismiss it. It runs through my mind again and I offer up a token prayer for Linda, knowing this is most often how the Lord speaks to me.
The following Tuesday morning – 9:45, I see her and my fears are confirmed. The scar running down the bridge of her nose spoke to me louder than her words, “He hit me. I moved out.” She recounted for me how her husband, in front of their 4-year-old son, fastened his hands around her throat and butted his head into hers. Even now, I shudder at the thought. Her usually bright countenance was darkened by the events of the previous week as she continued to explain all the legal jargon of how she couldn’t press charges unless she went to a certain police department and filled out a report before she sought medical attention. Honestly, I hardly heard a word of it. My heart broke for her. My heart broke for her husband. My heart broke for her son.
In my mind, I assessed the scenario.
Linda will go throughout her day now, struggling with thoughts of inadequacy, wondering what she has done to make her husband behave this way, her heart ever-hardening – questioning any love that is extended to her from an outside source. I have seen it happen before. I have watched as women become distant and independent – their beauty drained by an overwhelming sense of defeat.
Her husband, an alcoholic, will struggle with the same thoughts of inadequacy. Think about it, what kind of husband sends their wife to the ER with a gash running down the front of her face? Looking for answers, looking for fulfillment, he will continue to turn to a counterfeit in order to escape from the reality. To escape from the corner he has backed himself into.
Her son has accepted the abuse as a normal part of life. He doesn’t know anything different. Too young to understand what exactly is going on, his view of a loving father will be tainted unless there is some sort of intervention. Intervention that will sacrifice personal agendas to make sure this child does not have a twisted view of the world around him. Statistics tell us that most step down from this opportunity.
In one foul swoop we have a bride who is scared to love, a husband who is consumed by counterfeits, and a child whose view of life is about to be perverted if someone doesn’t step in.
And, even though the future looks dim, there is hope. Where is this hope?
Sunday morning, I sit in church, raise my hands in worship, listen to the sermon, and exit the building. The same people walk in and out of these doors every week and I wonder where the fruit is. My mind is occupied with thoughts of how Linda is doing, where she’s at, and what I could possibly do to make a difference in her life. I have to reach out – I have to get into her world. I sit next to her twice a week and I have the answer to her questions. There are thousands out there, just like Linda and we can’t expect them to just find the cross – we need to reach out.
How do I reach out to Linda?
I can’t just sit down with Linda and start talking about Jesus. We have entire generations of people in the western world whose minds go into autopilot mode as soon as they hear the name of Jesus. They have become familiar with Christianity, but know little of who Christ really is. They are tired of hearing about a religion that, for five monthly installments of $19.99, makes their problems go away. They need something real. The reality of our faith is not translating into our everyday lives, and it needs to.
So, what do I do? I listen. Every time I walk into the room to sit next to Linda, her countenance brightens just a little. I listen to her talk about her son, her little brother, her mom. I love her enough to notice when she needs a little encouragement. I let her know I care.
I pray. I pray God will open the doors for me to share more of my faith with her and I know He will, in His time. I listen for His voice. I have an active relationship with the God who created Linda, the God who knows every desire and thought in her mind. He gives me insight and makes me care for her even more.
Through all this I have come to realize the power to see lives changed, the hope Linda needs to see does not reside in the four walls of a church – it resides in me. The power of Christ in me is the hope she needs. The more I listen to His voice, the more I know His heart, pay attention to those around me, and step out in faith the more the world will change – the more people will learn to hope, again.
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