Today I had a life-changing experience. I was sitting in the waiting room, waiting for my 9:15am pain management doctor appointment. Sitting all around me were people that have developed painful disorders such as myself. Others have experienced traumatic accidents that have changed their lives, possibly forever. And others unfortunately are not there for health reasons but to get their next drug fix. That is the reality of Pain Management offices.
As I sat there waiting, a woman came in. She was very disfigured, hunched over at about 4 1/2 feet tall, with eyes pointing outward and not straight as to see well. Her hands were very gnarled. Her frame was emaciated, with legs the size of my arms. Her nails were longer and filled with dirt underneath. She was dressed in a nice pink and gray hoodie with a matching pink hair tie. She writhed in pain as she sat down across from me about 10 feet away. You could see the shame she carried with her. People were staring. You could almost here them thinking, “Who is that?” or even, “What is that?”
Watching her from across the room, I began to pray for her. She was carrying a heavy load, several bags and her purse. It was obvious the weight of the bags were increasing her pain levels, but I did not feel led by the Holy Spirit to move toward her. I thought I needed to instruct her about the bags she was carrying in order to decrease her pain. But what gave me the right to invade her world and immediately think I have to teach her something because I know and she doesn’t? Who am I to jump to that conclusion? As I prayed from a distance, God began to let me know ‘who I was called to be’ in this unique situation. The words from the Bible kept going through my mind ‘the least of these,’ ‘the least of these.’
Yesterday, Pastor Erik Howard preached a message at Christ Community Church about God’s command for all Christians, those who have placed faith in Jesus, to Go. His points were:
1. Lost people matter to God.
2. We are called to go.
3. We experience Beauty disguised as brokenness, as we go, through demonstration and proclamation.
It’s not just a command for those who are in Christian leadership roles, pastors, teachers, etc. It’s for everyone who follows Jesus. The message resounded in my ears as I sat there: Go, Go, Go to the least of these.
Matthew 25:40 (ESV)
And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’
I asked God, “Am I to approach her? Be Jesus to her, in the best way I know how?” The answer came after praying silently for about 10 minutes. Right here in front of everyone? The Holy Spirit said a resounding YES. GO TO HER. And I went. I sat down and touched her. I then introduced myself as Lois and asked what her name was. She attempted to look over with a painful glance as her neck was in a rigid horizontal position from her body. She smiled and was able to get the word “Joan” out of her mouth. She proceeded to writhe in pain as her neck would arch backward and her back would throw the rest of her body forward. She would slump way down in her chair to get it under control when the spasms would stop.
It was painful for me to watch. I couldn’t help her with that area, but I followed the Holy Spirit’s lead on how He had called me to help her, Joan. She had a name. She was created by God and has a purpose, even in her pain and disfigurement. As I sat there, she then said, “People won’t talk to me. People don’t like me because of what I look like.” Everything came to a halt inside of me. She shared a part of her everyday life experience and what she deals with. What a place of such hurt and rejection. That hit me deeply when she said that. She continued to try and get words out. She was desperate for someone, SOMEONE TO SEE HER, SOMEONE TO SHOW HER LOVE, even if it was only going to be for a matter of minutes on November 28, 2016.
I began to talk with her and ask her about herself. She then asked me, in her broken speech pattern, if I was ready for Christmas. I said I am always ready because it is all about Jesus, and I love celebrating Him. She agreed. She shared with me the diseases she has. She asked what I had, so I shared it with her. As she talked, I was hoping to learn about her situation to see if there was any way our church body, Living Faith Alliance, could support her. I was also hoping her talking with me would be a respite from her pain, even for only a few minutes.
I commented on her nice sweatshirt and matching hair tie. She got a huge smile on her face. She then said her grandmother was a designer and her mother owned a dress shop. I also learned of her own daughter’s drinking problems and that she is now in a halfway house. She has six grandchildren, four boys and two girls, ages 4-13. At that moment, it was like a blanket of shame came over her. She said, “You’re so nice. I’m sorry to dump all this on you.” I was taken back. I assured her that she was actually a blessing to Me, that I really wanted to hear her story and appreciated her telling me. She then continued the difficult action of talking.
She told me she is an agoraphobic, which is: an anxiety disorder characterized by symptoms of anxiety in situations where the person perceives the environment to be unsafe with no easy way to get away. These situations can include open spaces, public transit, shopping malls, or simply being outside the home.
So, the drive from Rio Grande is “murder for her” she said. But she is challenging herself to go to the doctor and Walmart. She also sees a counselor in Rio Grande but lives with an abusive ex-husband and is convinced they need each other. She assured me he doesn’t lay hands on her, but she has lived in the homeless shelter and they are there for her whenever she wants to leave the abuse that occurs where she lives.
I spoke into her life that God loves her and has purposes for her as well. I then asked her if I could pray for her. She held my hand tightly. I held hers tightly as well. I prayed and then she was able to get her eyes to come my way and said, “I want to pray for you.” As she tried to start, she couldn’t get the words out, so we met eyes and said Amen. A minute later, the doctor called her name. It was a powerful experience. I can honestly say that all I was dealing with physically became second. I wanted to make sure Joan got the help she needed. Praise God for her.
Joan may not know it, but God did something in me because of her.
It is vital to learn to hear the Holy Spirit’s prompting. If I moved on my own whim or desire to “help” out somebody with an obvious need, that could have been a traumatic experience for her. As she said, she’s an agoraphobic, terrified to leave her home, which is a result of trauma. So to have a person she doesn’t know come and sit by her and start talking could have driven her back to her trauma. The Spirit prompted and I went. Walk according to the Spirit. The result was beautiful. As Pastor Erik said, “We experience Beauty disguised as brokenness, as we GO.”