From my front row seat

Thursday, July 27, 2017

"Please help me find her!"

Business was unbelievably slow at the pharmacy where I worked after school.  Someone occasionally wandered in for a Coke flavored Icee and then there was also the woman who came in every week for nasal spray.  She was notable because she had no nose (although I never knew why), and she insisted on peeling back the Band-Aid to squirt nasal spray into her exposed nasal cavities before leaving the store.  I wasn't sure if she was truly that desperate for it, or if she simply enjoyed shocking the people around her.  If that was her plan, mission accomplished.

I felt so badly for the pharmacist because at the end of the day the sales only totaled $30 or so.  Surprisingly, he was never upset about it.  What a great attitude.

The middle aged pharmacist had loads of friends.  They loved to gather in the back room and watch ballgames on the weekends.  They whooped and hollered and slapped each other on the back.  At least he was having fun.

It was an easy job, which included taking lots of puzzling phone messages that were usually strings of unexplainable letters and numbers - no doubt, prescriptions that only a doctor would understand.

Shortly after I left this job the pharmacist showed up on the evening news.  He was arrested for running a large sports gambling operation.  So that's why his friends enjoyed ballgames so much.  And those messages were bets - not prescriptions.  Imagine.  This entire operation was taking place right under my nose and I had no idea.  I was young and quite naive, but how often does something like this happen right in front of us and we don't notice, or we don't care to see it?

Sometimes I feel like I can almost mark the very day God opened my eyes.  Once I said, "Yes" to God's call for my life, it seemed like the world immediately became more vivid and brilliant.  The way I describe it is like going from sepia tones to technicolor.  Do you remember the sepia toned crayons in the box?  Raw umber...burnt sienna...basically monochromatic tones of dull brown.  That's how I would describe life outside God's will.  It may be in color, but it's dull.

Once God opened my eyes in a different way to the world around me, I began to see everything more vividly - good things and bad.  Miracles around me became more brilliant, full of amazing color.  My heart felt more deeply in all directions.  However, the ugliness of the world became more vivid as well.

For instance, the unruly child in the store no longer looked like an annoying pest to me.  He suddenly looked like a little boy who might be living in fear, probably unable to pay attention in school because he had so many grownup problems to worry about - basic food, shelter, and especially safety.

The messy car in the Wal-Mart parking lot no longer looked like it just needed a good cleaning.  It was actually a temporary home for a family that's struggling. 

The woman staring blankly out the passenger window was probably not bored.  Her gaze was a sign of hopelessness.

The man walking on the side of the road wearing clothes from the wrong season was not a hiker, but most likely a man who had just been released from jail and had no one who could, or would, pick him up.

This brings me to something I saw in vivid color a year ago that unexpectedly turned into brilliant technicolor just the other day.

One Saturday morning last summer, I took a left out of my driveway.  I rarely go that direction on the weekends, but this day I was looking for flowers for my porch and had seen some in town the day before.  When I reached a wide stretch of highway where there are no houses, I found a woman on the side of the road.  She was a pretty woman but showed signs of a rough life.

Right away I noticed she was walking with a sense of desperation so I slowed down to see if she needed help.  Before I could reach her, an SUV came rushing from behind, swerved off the road in front of me, and skidded to a sudden stop right in front of this woman.  She and the driver immediately began arguing.  What's about to happen here?

I parked my car behind him and should have gotten the license number but I was so concerned about this woman, I didn't think about it.  He madly waved for me to pass him, but I stayed put.  Then much to my surprise, the woman got in the car with him.

The driver made an angry U-turn and took off slinging gravel.  As I searched for a better place to turn around, I looked in my rearview mirror just in time to see the passenger door fly open and the woman dangle halfway out of the moving vehicle.  The car swayed wildly down the road, and right before I lost sight of them, I saw the woman swing back inside.

I turned around as quickly as I could and went searching for the car.  In those few seconds, though, I lost them.  I drove several miles down the road and was relieved to find someone from the sheriff's department checking out an abandoned car.  "I'm so glad I found you.  I need your help!"

After I explained what had just happened he very calmly said, "Well, how do you know this isn't just the first time they've had an argument?"

"Are you kidding me?  What difference does that make!"  The man finally agreed to call it in, and I waited as he very patronizingly did so.  But he was not willing to look for her.  I drove off and called the sheriff's department, myself.  They assured me they would "send someone to check it out."  Sure you will.

After this I could hardly go about flower shopping, so I drove all the way into the next town to try again.  I walked into the police station and begged them to help me even though I knew this didn't happen in their district.  I said, "Surely someone knows who this guy is because today can't be the first time he's done something like this.  There's a woman getting the crap beat out of her right now and we've got to do something!"

When I described the guy and the SUV, the officer said he thought he might know who that was, and assured me he would call the neighboring law enforcement and get someone to check it out.  I believed him, at least more than I believed the last two guys, so I left feeling I had done all I could, but was still not satisfied.

For the next few days I traveled down all kinds of side country roads looking for this vehicle and worried about the pretty woman who disappeared with it.  I told our staff about the incident and we prayed for her.  For the next year I thought of this desperate woman from time to time when I passed that same place in the road, and even followed a similar vehicle for several miles one day until I realized it was a different driver.  I never forgot her.

So last week we had a special Family Day at Blue Monarch.  One of our newest residents had no family visiting that day so I sat down on the sofa to get to know her.  She began telling me how her former boyfriend had just gotten his domestic violence charges moved to attempted murder because of how severely she was beaten.  She described how he planned to throw her off a bluff, but he threw her out of a moving car instead, which beat her up something dreadful.  In fact, her vision and hearing were impaired because she suffered such severe damage to one side of her head.

"Wait...did the two of you ever go outside of town toward where I live?"

"Yes, he would take me out to remote places like that to fight."

I then asked her if he drove a vehicle like the one I had seen that day.  "Yeah."

"What color is it?"  And yes, it was the same color.  This was the woman I saw!  I finally found her - on the sofa at Blue Monarch.

I was so excited and began anxiously telling her my side of the story that day.  I described how hard I tried to find her and get help.  It turns out, after my visit to the police station that day, she said someone called to warn him that a police report had been filed on him.  Sadly, though, he didn't stop beating her.  He simply looked for places no one would see her.  Months later he threw her from a moving vehicle, nearly killing her.  So I didn't really help her at all - at least not in the way I tried.  However, God was helping her in a different way.

After we pieced together my story and hers, she became tearful and said, "You wouldn't believe how hard I prayed for God to let someone see what was going on and intervene.  And - you did.  Someone did!"

In that powerful moment, this broken, wounded woman realized God was paying attention to her prayers all along and had heard her desperate cry.  As this sunk in, a big, beautiful smile grew across her face, and she glowed with tears in her eyes.  A visible peace came over her, as if she had softly landed in God's arms and was finally safe.

As we shared a tearful hug, I realized that God didn't just open my eyes so I would notice this woman on the side of the road.  He also wanted me to see the brilliant, magnificent color when she met Him face to face.  

Open my eyes that I may see
Glimpses of truth Thou has for me...
Hymn by Clara H. Scott, published 1895 

UPDATE:  This woman has continued to heal, grow, and thrive at Blue Monarch.  Here she proudly displays her photograph from around the time I saw her on the side of the road.  Just look at her now!  Thank you, Lord, for such tremendous healing!