JennyPosted: May 11, 2011
I remember her eyes more than anything – big, and hazel. It was dark out, but the high beams from the cars whizzing by tended to illuminate her face. An attractive face, if it weren’t so distorted by incoherency and unreasoning fear. She couldn’t have been more than 25 in my mind, but I tend to be a bad judge of things like that. She told me her name, but I’ll just call her Jenny.
She had jumped out of one car – apparently to get away from an abusive boyfriend – and into another. The driver was caught completely off guard and pulled into the nearest parking lot. While she was frantically asking the clerk to call the police, Jenny jumped out and stalked off, clearly not in her right mind. But she didn’t go far.
I don’t know what made me get involved. Maybe it was that I had just come from a church function (but then, I’m always coming from one of those). Maybe I saw a large possibility of her getting hit by a car in her seemingly inebriated state. Maybe I was just there. In any case, I was compelled to do something.
So… that’s how I found myself on the second most dangerous intersection in Lubbock trying to calm an intoxicated stranger. Because I had to do something.
Of course, there was little I could do. Her chemically altered state was the dominant factor. In addition, she was terrified beyond lucidity (I still don’t know whether her phantoms were real or imagined), and in the brief moments when what she said was comprehensible there were enough inconsistencies to make me suspect that she was deliberately lying to me.
What was abundantly clear was that she was terrified. So I did what I could. I talked to her to try and calm her down, eventually getting close enough to hold her hand. Then we sat and talked until the paramedics and police arrived.
I’m not sure what my expectations were as I approached her – I was praying fervently for wisdom throughout, but I couldn’t think of anything more specific to request. What I know is that I came away from that experience with a crippling sense of inadequacy. Which is why I didn’t blog about it immediately. After I thought about it a while, I can see some good that came out of it. For me, at least.
Ministry is messy – a fact easily overlooked while training for it. Despite all the training and preparation in the world, there are some situations that nobody is prepared to deal with. I’m not saying this was one of them – the paramedics had things well in hand once they showed up – but it certainly was for me. And in a very real way, some predicaments are so convoluted and difficult that it takes the direct intervention of God himself to resolve them.
There are no guarantees. I had about 15 minutes total with Jenny, and I don’t even know if she heard a word I said. She isn’t the first, and who knows how many other chance encounters with complete strangers I’ll have before it’s all said and done. Out of those, I’ll be able to have a positive influence on some… and some, not. But God’s promise is that he will be with me, not that anybody else will.
Truth is still truth, even when things are hard. I know that my actions are pleasing to God, an odor of a sweet smell. I know that my inability to offer anything but a momentary comfort is nevertheless agreeable to my Father. I know that his ability to work in all situations, with or without me, is greater than I can fathom. And I know that ultimately all things are in his power and control. I know these things, even though it sometimes doesn’t feel like it. So here’s another thing I know – truth trumps my feelings.
It’s not easy, but I’m trying to be at peace. Another thing I’m learning is persistence in prayer. There’s another name on my prayer list. Her name isn’t Jenny, but if you whisper that name to God tonight, I’m sure he’ll know who you’re talking about.