I've been pondering lately how the Lord brings people into our lives. Some folks come in one door and soon leave through another. Some quietly move in to stay. And then there are those who come crashing in through a window, leave a mess, and relief that they've gone. And yet, they have all entered our life for a reason, and as long as memory endures, a part of them will remain.
Years ago there was a girl who came crashing into our lives, and I have lately found myself remembering and wondering how she is doing. April showed up on the doorstep of our church one Sunday evening just as the service had ended and folks were wrapping up their visiting in the lobby. She lived in the neighborhood next to the church and had seen the cross on the steeple for weeks. This night she had made up her mind to come and had walked the streets in the dark, hopping a fence or two, in hopes of catching a service.
Living a long way from home, South Florida had gone from being an escape to becoming a prison for her. Raised in a church-going family, April had been the wild child of the family. A teenage pregnancy had established her as a bad girl in her own mind and she assumed there was no going back. Her Mother cared for her daughter as April moved to Florida to live with some friends who promised her sanctuary and a chance for a fresh start. But the sanctuary that this cute, young, vibrant girl found living with this particular pair of angry Lesbian women was a fragile illusion.
The home in which she found herself was comfortable at first and she got along with her friends just fine so long as she pursued their interests. They were open minded as long as she went along to the clubs and parties of their choosing. But when she began to look for straight friends and perhaps even a boyfriend, that was crossing a line. She had gotten a job at the local Lowes but depended on her housemates for transportation. Driving her to work was alright, but not always convenient. Driving her to a Christian church was out of the question.
The night she showed up at church I was standing right outside the door. God put me right in the path of this lost and wandering lamb as she was beginning to long for the comfort that she remembered from her childhood. April couldn't express what she was feeling in concise doctrinal statements, all she knew was that she needed to be in a church, and was desperate for someone to talk to about topics that were taboo in the house in which she now lived. God was calling this lost child home.
And there I stood.
The next few weeks went by in a blur, and my memory is not sufficient to sort it all out. What I remember clearly is her achingly raw need for Christ as her new friends abandoned her- actually turned on her with a vicious attack that took Jim and another couple of men from the church to sort out. There were sleepless nights, early morning phone calls and driving to pick her up after a night out partying with the wrong people. April slept on our couch, wore my clothes for a couple of days, and gave me cause for anxieties that I'd never dreamed of. We helped talk to her supervisor at work who arranged a transfer to a store near her home- her real home up North. Phone calls with her Mom and a bus ticket bought and she was on her way back from her wandering to rejoin the family who awaited her with open arms and tears of joy.
There was not one single aspect of our interlude with April that was at all convenient. She blew through our tidy routine like a hurricane. But then, Florida is where hurricanes happen, and a life submitted to Christ is not tidy or routine in the least. I spent most of that time feeling as if I were one gulp away from drowning in the tide. There were no neat, carefully thought-out explanations of, well, anything. April was afraid, well aware of her sin, and she needed Jesus. And Jesus used the common clay vessel that was closest to the door the night April came looking for Him.
We later heard from April's Mom that she was doing rather well. Going back to school, taking care of her daughter, looking to the future; most importantly, she was actively participating in a church, growing in her knowledge of and service to the Lord. Now that we have moved away from Florida I doubt that we will ever hear from them again, and I don't feel that we need to.
But there are times that I do wonder about that night. If I hadn't been standing outside the church door I might have missed the turbulent, sleepless, inconvenient, even scary, next few weeks. And I would have missed the unbelievable blessing of watching the Lord reclaim one of his lost sheep.
I wouldn't have missed it for the world. Thank you Lord.