Gradually, the well-meaning ladies backed their way out of the circle until I was the last woman standing. It wasn’t that the others didn’t want to help; it’s that they had been told in no uncertain terms that their assistance wasn’t needed.
In fact, the exact words they’d heard were, “Leave me be; go on about your own business,” the woman on the ground growled repeatedly. Eventually they’d thought it best to respect her wishes and had backed away.I was about to do the same, but instead of backing away I moved in closer.
Before I knew it, I was on my knees, on a worn-out blanket by the curb of a busy street with a scowling woman on one side and a snarling terrier on the other side of me. What had brought me there? There was only one logical explanation: Jesus shoved me! As I discovered, he is not always wearing his lamb suit when he wants to get your attention.
The whole thing had started earlier that morning during a small group Bible study I was leading at a church. Gwen, one of our group members, had come into the classroom and asked for our attention (not an easy thing to get from a dozen chatty, caffeinated women).
Once we were paying attention, Gwen had explained she’d met a woman she thought was probably homeless, washing her hands and face in the sink next to her in the church restroom. “I got a little way down the hall before I realized I should have asked how I could help her. I went back to look for her, but she was gone,” Gwen told us, clearly unhappy she had missed the chance to help the stranger.
As the small group leader, I’d suggested we pray for the apparently homeless woman right then. “Dear Lord,” I’d prayed, “thank you for giving us the opportunity to pray for this woman who is so heavy on Gwen’s heart. Please bring someone You trust to come alongside her wherever she might be. Let her feel Your presence in her life today. Let her know she is loved. Keep her safe, amen.” Leaving the church a couple hours later, I was speed walking to my car, trying to escape the biting wind. It was an unseasonably chilly day in April and, thanks to the weather man, I had dressed for spring.
I clicked my key fob, opened my car door, and tossed my Bible and notebook in the back seat. That’s when I recognized the concerned ladies from the Wednesday morning Bible study I just attended. They seemed to be gathered in a circle by the curb learning over someone sitting on the ground.I made a life-changing decision to weather the weather and investigate.
The biting wind whipped against my bare legs as I walked across the parking lot toward the circle of ladies. I drew closer, I was fairly certain they were standing around the woman we had prayed for earlier that morning. Spread out on the grass was a matted, fuzzy blanket with a faded coyote howling at the moon motif. A woman with long gray-streaked braids twining down the sides of her weathered face sat on the edge of the blanket, leaning her back against a tall pine tree. Her giant glasses were taped together in several places. She was wearing a tattered sweatshirt and pants, one shoe, one slipper, and weariness.
“You hush up Lizzie Lou!” she kept yelling at the dog. Lizzie Lou was a scruffy little terrier (whitish, grayish, brownish) suffering from a severe identify crisis. She was behaving very Rottweiler-ish. She had the bark and growl down but, seriously, she weighed ten pounds at most. Lizzie Lou was in hyper-protection mode with all of us strangers hovering around her favorite person.
One by one the rest of the ladies reluctantly stepped away from the circle. Next thing I knew, I was alone kneeling in front of the woman on her tattered blanket. I remembered my prayer, asking God to bring someone to come alongside the woman in need. It appeared the someone Jesus had in mind was me. “Um, hello,” I said. “My name is Cy.”