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I stood cold against the wind, though I tried to hide it. My navy blue and golden-rod yellow University of Michigan sweatshirt was the warmest non-coat item I had in my closet, and it still didn’t suffice. Katie Koopmann, my right-hand girl it seems at times, stood beside me, laughing at some random joke that I had just retorted, or some random dance I had just danced. I was hyper, perhaps from the cold, and restless. The concrete ground reached out from the tips of our shoed toes out and around us. A couple of other girls completed our circle, but beyond us stood more circles and squares and lines and oblong shapes of people.
Josh, the tall, blonde, one-who-jumps-and-claps, was making his way through the groups of people towards us. His face bore a worried, frusterated, intense look, and when he reached us, he looked at me and said “Can I talk to you for a second?”
My heart stopped. Whenever I heard those words, from anybody, it usually means I was in trouble. What had I done this time, that I merited a talking-to? Josh was the proclaimed (or self-proclaimed) leader of the Biblestudy we put on in our homeless ministry called Chicago’s Beloved. Today we had been a little late from our routes, where every week we walk down a street, handing out sandwiches and just hanging out with the homeless brothers and sisters who live there, so biblestudy was cut short. After Biblestudy, we cross the street to this little stretch of concrete under a great, stadium-dome looking building called the Thompson Center where another ministry serves chili. People from all over come to have some chili and some conversation. As my heart raced through my mind, in search of anything that I might have said or done that merited Josh’s face and tone, the laughing and dialogue of the people standing around us rang in my ears. “Sure.” I said.
“I want you to talk to someone…” He then went on to say that he had witnessed a guy from our Biblestudy being abusive to his girlfriend just a few moments before. Although he didn’t want to confront him directly, for fear of antagonizing the guy into a fight, he was frusterated and worried about the girl. He asked me if I would talk to her discreetly; let her know that she was worth more than how her boyfriend was treating her, and that she was not bound to him. That she was valuable, and didnt have to deal with that abuse anymore. And that perhaps my own story’s relevance would cause her to listen.
As I nodded in mock confidence, my fingers felt numb. Why me? I was scared. I didn’t think I could do it. I wasn’t ready. As he walked away, those doubting, scared thoughts sifted through my mind. I prayed to God, turned to Katie and asked for her to pray for me, too, and dove in.
Walking over to them casually seemed like the most awkward, obvious thing I had ever done in my life. Every second I anticipated for them to turn to me and say “I know what you’re up to and we won’t have any of it!” But that never came. I asked them how their week was and the answer was “Not that good.” Subject of conversation, okay I can do this. Taking a breath to ask why, the guy interrupted me. “Do you have some change? We gotta get on the train, I gotta job interview tomorrow.”
I shook my head. GOD what are you doing? I screamed in my head. Will she listen to me if I give her money? Are you asking me to buy them a train ticket? I dont know what to do!
“I just need some change. I gotta get on the train…”
How will I get the chance to talk to her alone if he’s right there practically hanging on to her, his arm wrapped protectively around her? LORD I need help! I shook my head again. “Sorry, I dont-”
“Do you have a phone I could borrow, then?” He asked again. I nodded, pulling out my trusty purple phone and handing it to him. “Use it as long as you need. I have unlimited everything.” (Praise the Lord for Metro PCS!)
He smiled slightly, grabbed the phone and walked away to sit down, leaving his girlfriend behind. I swallowed. What now?
“Y-you wanna get in line for chili?” I asked.
She shrugged and nodded. Anthony, a friend of her boyfriend’s, walked over with us, picking up a conversation with her. My heart sank. LORD, I dont know what to DO!
In line, Anthony turned to me. “So, what’s your story?”
NO. NO. What do you want me to do, Lord? Tell the truth? This wasn’t supposed to be personal. I can’t relate with these people… their stories are probably worse than mine. They probably think I’m just this white chick that has had everything alright with her life. They’ll never take me seriously. Say something SAY SOMETHING.
So I blurted out whatever my mind could think of. With each word my heart grew heavier and heavier, and my throat grew tighter and tighter. The truth wasn’t shocking enough, I needed more shocking. The truth wasn’t painful enough… I needed more pain. The reality isn’t drastic enough… I need more drastic. How was she going to listen to the things I needed to say to her if I didn’t relate with her? I’ve only tasted the pain she’s gone through. I’m inadequate, Lord, IM INADEQUATE!
After I stopped talking, Anthony gave me a hug. “Yeah, God is good.” He said. “You keep it up. God loves us no matter where we are.”
I swallowed and averted my eyes. I was supposed to be helping this girl, and I was lying to her. How is that helping? I just wanted to walk away, my guilt almost heavier than the words that slipped into my ears “How can God use someone like me? I’m a liar. In the process of trying to help someone, I’ve lied to them. Who am I to do that?!”
Anthony patted me on the back once more before walking away. It was just her and I. I swallowed again.
“What’s your name again?” I asked.
“Brandy.” She answered. “BABE! BABE! Come over here!” She yelled at her boyfriend. My heart sank lower. I had missed my chance. “Babe!”
“WHAT?!” He yelled back. He scowled at her and started yelling at her, calling her names and telling her to leave him alone, my phone still pressed against his ear.
She closed her mouth. “Why does he gotta be so mean?” she whispered under her breath.
“You know you dont have to stay with him. You’re worth more than that.” I said quietly. “I’ve been there. It’s not worth it, it’s not worth it.”
She didnt say anything at first. Then she pursed her lips. “We just been together for so long…”
“I know, I been there. It doesn’t matter if you’re with them for four years, four months, or four days, you dont have to put up with that.”
“He’s got good days and then he’s got bad days…”
“Why dont you want all good days though?” I trailed off. Maybe I had said too much, too quickly. She didn’t respond, and moved down the line alittle more, quiet. We stood there for a split-second, saying nothing, and then she looked away and walked back towards her boyfriend. They left a couple moments later.
Looking back, I rejoice that the Lord gave me the opportunity to speak into Brandy’s life, if for a second, but I grieve because of my sin. I realize that stretching the truth was not distrusting God’s power to move her spirit, instead of the power my own story. And even though I eventually had the chance to say the words I was to say, I could not fully rejoice in the Lord’s providence and miracles, from getting the boyfriend away for awhile, to giving me a moment to say the words “You are worth more than that.” It hurt me. Lord, I need help with this telling the truth thing. Honesty… why do I hate it? Why do I think the story you’ve written for me is not as good as the one I’ve written for myself?
This post started out as a “Praise the Lord for His miracles”, and turned into a “I confess, Lord, my sins.” I am struggling with this, not because I love to lie, but because I hate the truth of my life. My pain- I dont want to feel it. My experiences- I dont want to admit. My sin- I pretend it doesnt exist. And although I am not a compulsive liar who says whatever anyone wants to hear just to get ahead, I am NOT a compulsive truth-teller. I WANT to be! LORD I WANT to be!
Would you guys pray for both Brandy and I, one for her abusive relationship with her boyfriend, the other for her abusive relationship with herself? Why dont I just let myself be free? Why dont I just walk away? Why do I have to lie- I dont have to! It hurts me, causes me so much pain, ruins my friendships and builds walls in my relationship with God. It hinders me from being all of myself, it turns me into a cowering, angry, scared, little girl. I need to pull myself aside and tell myself those words “YOU ARE WORTH MORE THAN THAT!”
I am worth more than that!