I had just landed in Sacramento after an amazing adventure in Texas. It is a 5+ hour drive home, and during the layover in Dallas I realized I was too tired to make it home so I called my hubby and asked him to find me a hotel.
He’s a great guy.
I am directionally challenged at times and masterfully pulled into the back parking lot. I was fatigued and drained as I rolled my polka-dotted suitcase toward the front door.
But I did see you.
I saw your 5 inch candy apple Stilettos and skin tight skirt. I noticed you fidgeting, looking around. I wondered if you were waiting for someone; perhaps someone you’ve never met who was going to pay you to meet him at a hotel.
I was returning from a crazy trip to Austin, Texas, where I gathered in a house with twenty women I had never met, and went to party with two hundred additional stranger-friends. There were so many conversations about calling, and loving, and being small.
Sometimes my face goes blank as I hear words but don’t really get the meaning. You showed me I have so very far to go.
I immediately talked myself out of any assumptions. I live in a bubble on the Central Coast of California. This is a city. People dress differently. Who am I to think….
I went inside to check in and, of course, couldn’t find my ID. I was digging through the papers and weekend remnants in my suitcase sized carry on when I heard a man say, “My room’s this way.”
He had his head down, dark curls covering his face. The see-through liquor store bag he carried was full of whiskey and soda. A dozen feet behind him you followed.
I looked up just in time to look you in the eye and smile. I couldn’t breathe as you rounded the corner out of sight. You see, I am certain I saw fear in your eyes and I had no clue how to help.
It wasn’t that I was scared–I wasn’t. I was genuinely lost. I had no ideas. I had $13 in my wallet, and believed that wouldn’t help fix whatever had broken in your world that led to this moment.
Making a scene in the hotel lobby didn’t seem like it would add to your dignity. No one else around appeared to notice or care. Was this normal in this place?
I went to my room and prayed but the whole time I was praying I was thinking about the passage in Joshua chapter 7 when God tells Joshua: Rise up! Why is it you have fallen on your face?
Christians can sometimes use the term “On my face” as a badge of honor describing earnest prayer. But in Joshua, God is saying now is not the time to pray. I can so easily use prayer as a cop-out. “I’ll pray for you,” can be both a wholly beautiful promise of love, and a way to let myself off the hook because I don’t actually want to do anything.
This time I had no inkling what to do.
Driving down the long stretch of Highway 5 to home the next morning, I couldn’t get you out of my mind. Flipping through radio stations to fill the silence and remembering the fear in your eyes, I became one of those people.
I cried huge, prolific tears at a country music song:
It’s where I drank my first beer
It’s where I found Jesus
Where I wrecked my first car
I tore it all to pieces
I learned the path to heaven is full of sinners and believers
Learned that happiness on earth ain’t just for high achievers
I’ve learned I’ve come to know
There’s life at both ends
Of that red dirt road
Brooks & Dunn
I don’t pretend to know one iota of how you got here, but I do know something has gone wrong and I am so, so sorry.
I want you to know there is still beauty. Beauty in you, beauty for you, beauty in the arms of God who is waiting to hold you.
I have not lived your story, but I do know from my own sometimes shattered world that getting pummeled against the rocks wounds.
And I know that it can be so hard to believe that just around the corner from the rocks is a new place, that can be the beginning of a whole new life.
But more than anything I want you to know that I saw you. You are not invisible. You matter.
I don’t know what I will do the next time I am in that situation, but I will try to find answers that make sense. Fixing human trafficking is (as of this moment) not my calling, but that is no excuse to do nothing when something of value–you–right in front of me is about to be…
I don’t have the right words.
But I do know that I am so, so sorry.