I had never seen her before, but I knew of her. I had heard her story, along with countless others, from a very dear friend of mine who works with Teen Challenge of East Tennessee. Suddenly, as I pulled up to park in front of the counseling center, she was there on the sidewalk just a little bit ahead of me. She looked directly into my eyes and I felt my heart break. She didn't have to say a word, I already knew her name. I knew the Lord was tugging at my heart to stop for a moment and speak with her, but I was too busy. I had my daughter with me and I had things to do.
So did she.
As I watched, a run-down, filthy pick-up truck drove up beside us, slowed down, stopped...and took her away. I wondered if the john would have the decency to take her some place private. Probably not.
I stole a quick glance at my daughter. Her eyes were wide open with shock. She knew what had just happened. She's almost 14 and has worked with me before, waiting tables at Teen Challenge banquets, parking cars during the fair to raise money. She knows who these women are. What she doesn't know is that she had just come face to face with the woman her mother almost became.
As I write this, I shudder at the thought of how close I was. I don't just know of this woman, I know this woman. We are members of an ancient sisterhood, she and I. One forged out of betrayal and shattered trust. I know her reasons and am well acquainted with her demons. I just wish I had had the guts and the grace to stop for just a moment to talk with her about Jesus. I could have shown her my decoder pin proving my status as an alumnus and I could have extended to her the same Grace that was extended to me. She might have taken me up on it, she might not, but at least it would have been something. It...would...have...been...something.
Instead, I took my daughter's hand and as we crossed the street, I gave thanks. Because no matter how many years have passed and no matter how far I've come, I know that it is still God's grace that gently yet firmly upholds me...keeping me from sinking into the depths. I also breathed a prayer for forgiveness, for another shot, for God's grace to cover me once more.
God save that girl, and save me from apathy.