We’d switched seats, and it was ok with me. After all, he drove the whole way up to Lynnwood, Washington from Newberg, Oregon. I wanted to give him a break. Braylon piped up from the back seat that was laid flat, “I have to go to the bathroom”. Ricky says to me, “Take this exit right here.” I saw no signs for the exit, just the exit number, so I said back, “Nah, this isn’t a good exit to take. There’s nothing here.” still looking for a restaurant sign somewhere. “No, take it. It’s a Rest Stop.” so I swerved into the far right lane just in time. It was Mile Post 93, 11 miles south of Olympia.
The sky was dark and the air brisk. I stretched and looked around, noticing a woman sitting criss-crossed on the concrete. She held a sign, “A Little Gas Money Would Help. Trying to get to Medford”.
“I’ll be back. Gonna go talk to her.” My sweet, patient family waited for me in the car.
I squatted down by her, saying hello, both our backs against the same brick wall. She smiled back at me. I admitted I had no money to give her but I could offer something else. Prayer. To a listening God.
Amy was a slender, white woman in her late thirties, but looked a little worn out, like difficult times had taken a few years without her permission. We had Medford as a common topic as I’d lived there for three years. I tried encouraging her, that once she arrived, it’d be such a great place to live. To start over. Her husband Franklin was in the car, she told me. Her marriage had gone through some “bumps” in recent months. She added that to a short list of things I could pray for. I asked about her health and she said she was ok, but The Spirit in his quiet way, told me to dig a bit deeper. She told me vulnerably, she had Hep C. “Dudn’t give me much problems, though”.
The conversation somehow curved around to Jesus and I asked her if she would ever consider letting Him in, to take over. Now’s a good time to start fresh, after all, with a new chapter in Medford ahead of them (oh- and their three children who awaited them, at her mother’s house). I pointed out that her cardboard sign read “God Bless”. “You believe in God?” and to that she answered, “Oh yes, I know he’s there. He’s always listening.” “Would you want to pray with me to just invite Jesus to set up camp, or live inside of you, to surrender your life – the good and the bad – to him?” She’d mentioned that she knew about surrendering your life and your will to something, because she’d heard the concept in NA meetings.
“I could pray and to take pressure off, if you believe and agree with me, you could just say, ‘Amen’ when I’m done?”
She threw her hands up as if to say, “what do I have to lose?” and said, “sure!” So I prayed for her, thanked God for loving her from the day she was born, and asked him to take her from here. When she said “amen”, it was like she meant it. Like she’d turned into a big black woman sitting her church pew on a hot Sunday morning. “Amen!”. I smiled and shifted closer to give her a hug and a blessing, and she wished me the best kind of blessing she could think of at the time – safe travels and good luck.
I keep thinking about Amy. I keep second guessing my words, my approach, what I missed… “did I remember to pray for…” I really did forget to pray for her Hep C to be healed and was so bummed about that for 2 days! But the grace of my God rushes in and gives me a holy hug. I believed for it to be done anyway, from afar. He reassured me of his love for both me and Amy. And that He’ll keep placing more people before me that need to know that same love, as long as I’m willing to be open. As long as I’m looking for them. Like you’d urgently look for an exit off the freeway.
“Nah, this isn’t a good exit to take. There’s nothing here.” Yep.
I was way off.