I recently wrote to ya’ all about this woman who has been through hell and back. She has been in over 100 foster homes in the course of her life- a child of the state. She has been abused and wounded by people who were supposed to be loving and abandoned by people who were supposed to stay. Her story has collided with so many wounded people and wounded her in return, that just hearing it overwhelms you, like you are being piled on by something so heavy you wonder if you can get out from underneath it.
I mentioned that there are these amazing people from my church who are stepping out and advocating on her behalf to get her what she needs to keep walking forward. And that is so needed and for that I am so grateful. Sometimes, we are steeped in such insurmountable hopelessness that what we really need is another’s hand grabbing ours and walking us where we need to go.
And then there’s me. Of course, I got some silly idea of helping her by hooking her up with a friend who teaches swim lessons. Walking out of a coffee date from being toppled by her story and then coming up with “I can get a girl who might be homeless, whose been wounded severely and trying to stay clean from addiction swim lessons” seemed a bit juvenile. How are swim lessons going to help her? What was I thinking?
She said she had never done basic things. Like go on a vacation. Like learn to swim. Like have a family. So my friend agreed to teach this full fledged adult how to swim. It was a plan. Bella, my eight year old daughter went to her room and picked out which suit she wanted to wear. She was going to swim too! Bella has a ton of suits because one of my half sisters who is graduating from high school handed Bella down like a trillion suits from her childhood collection. There was the bright colored bikini with geometric shapes. There was the floral bottoms with the striped top. There was the hot pink tankini, which is her current fave, but she couldn’t find it. She sifted through the others looking and unsuccessful, she chose the one piece suit that fits kind of oddly at the top. It bows out and often feels not snug enough to cover what needs to be covered. But she popped in on, put on a sundress, grabbed a towel and off we went.
As we drove to pick up this new friend, I shared with Bella bits and pieces of this woman’s story. I invited Bella in to encourage her as we shop for suits, but mostly to just show her the love of Christ. Do you know that our kids can show God’s love to people like none other? We found what we thought was her address and parked our “new to us” SUV a bit cockeyed to pick her up. As I approached the door, there were three characters sitting on the porch smoking, shooting the breeze. I asked if this was where I can find our friend. The guy said “Oh yeah, I’ll get her. Please put her in a bag and take her away.” I hated that he said that. It made me feel sick to my stomach like it’s what she has been told her entire life as she has been traded in like an unwanted “thing.”
She walked out and was her usual spunky self. Excited, laughable, easily amused and amusing. We headed to Target. On the way there, I asked her what kind of suit she wanted. “Do you think you want a one piece, a bikini, a tankini?” She asked curiously, “What is a tankini?” So, Bella and I attempt to explain. We walked into Target and there is a ginormous swim suit section, with product falling all over the place, hangers everywhere almost as if a toddler came in off a candy binge and helicoptered that place in a rage. She said “I have never had a suit before.” I thought maybe she meant she had never had that kind of suit or this color of suit. I asked, “You have never owned a bathing suit? Not even just in the summer to run through a sprinkler or something?” “No,” she said.
We sifted through the options and grabbed several to try on. She called Bella and I in to look at her favorite. It was so cute! She chose black bottoms with a gray and black animal print tankini (Thank you to the woman who donated money to pay for this!) She looked like a beach babe ready to hit the shore! We left Target, almost ran out of gas and had to fill up and then grabbed dinner at the good ol Taco Bell. In all our running around, we talked about cars. She likes cars. We talked about school classes she is taking and her health. We laughed saying things like “guuurrrrrl, you got ooooomph!” (You’d have to be there:) )We talked about a the apartment she might get soon because of the help of her advocates.
As we approached the pool, the neighborhood reminded her of one she lived in. It brought back bad memories. Memories in part she wished panned out. Memories in part she hopes to soon forget, I am sure. She was nervous, but total game. My friend Lindsay showed up with a giant beach towel and what looked like kid pool toys. As they walked in the newly opened for the season pool, it must have been collllld. Lindsay assured her that she would be safe, that Lindsay was going to start from the very beginning of learning how to swim, and that everything would be ok. She started this conversation while handing this woman her son’s Batman kick board.
She invited her to lean on this kick board and told her “it will hold you.” She explained that if your body rests on this, you will float and then you can kick your legs and go and to and fro the sides. Every time she tried she would sink into the water, come out coughing and then begin laughing hysterically. Her laugh lit up the pool, pool house, tennis courts and then I am sure echoed into the streets. I think she laughs because it’s all she could ever to do to stay sane. I think she laughs because she has a great sense of humor. And I think she was laughing because she was nervous. She kept apologizing saying sorry. Lindsay would reassure her that she doesn’t have to be sorry and that she is doing just fine. Lindsay tried a new route. She invited her to come over to the pool stairs, lean her forearms on the second to top step and just practice flutter kicks. Then Lindsay saw this white buoy with a long rope hanging on the wall by the pool. She asked me to hand it to her and took our friend back into the pool and invited her to do the same thing as before, but instead of a batman kick board- she had her lean on this buoy.
Buoys are what you throw out to someone in need of saving. I watched this, thinking, this woman so needs rescue. She needs rescue from the lies she has been told about herself. She needs rescue from the addictive patterns she was born into that cause her to self destruct. She needs rescue from her hell on earth and instead needs that “Kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven” like Jesus prays.
Jesus’ very name means “He saves”. Jesus needs to throw out a buoy from a Divine, Supernatural place because the road ahead is long and arduous and the waters feel like a current could take her away if rescue doesn’t come quick enough. We call Jesus a Savior. And when we do, people’s skin often crawls. Just that one statement makes people feel like they are receiving bad news. Like they have to be someone different or do something they don’t want to be. For some reason ‘Jesus saves’ makes people think of hell and fire and brimstone and really awful Christians who yell at people and tell them they suck. Jesus doesn’t suck, those people do. If I have offended you, you’re welcome.
Jesus isn’t just interested in saving people by only getting them to hand over a list of their doctrinal beliefs, as if it was a test they were handing in to a teacher and they have to get all the right answers. Jesus is interested in saving us from all that is twisted, dysfunctional, sick, messy and hurtful. He is interested in rescuing us from ourselves, from our religious baggage, from our family of origin wounds, from our small view of Him. Jesus wants to bring rescue to us so that we can live. And He wants that for this woman. God wants for her safety, healing, new family, a home and even the freedom and ability to swim and play and dance.
Lindsay softly spoke, “Trust me, I won’t let you go.” I heard that and thought…“I am not sure Lindsay and I realize what we are asking of this girl.” Lindsay asked a girl to trust, who has ABSOLUTELY NO REASON to give anyone her trust. I watched from the chaise lounge. This was spiritual. This woman was being asked to trust when nothing had been trustworthy in her entire life. This is part of her healing, part of her journey. She is going to have to lean into this One who Rescues and trust in unknown, scary waters.
I thought, do we realize what we are asking here? We are asking a woman who has been abandoned again and again to trust us. Who do we think we are? Do we realize what we are asking? Why should she? How can she? I think this is important. So often I think Christians don’t realize the huge thing they are asking of non- believers. You are asking someone to trust what they cannot see, what they think sounds hokey, what they have heard is lame, who they feel abandoned by, with all their trust issues, to hand over their life to this Jesus who sounds like He wore Birkenstocks, hung out with lepers and then died on a piece of wood 2000 years ago. Do we realize the kind of trust we are asking for? I realized something HUGE.
TRUST IS A CRAZY THING TO ASK FOR UNLESS YOU ARE WILLING TO GIVE IT BACK IN RETURN.
Maybe read that again. How can you ask this woman to trust when she has absolutely no reason to, unless you show yourself to be trustworthy? The only way that she is going to trust God, whose saving she needs so desperately, is by trust. The only way she might trust God is through the trustworthiness she experience in God’s people. That is a huge call to Christians. I hope you hear it. I heard it too. Realize what a big thing you are asking people when you are asking people who have been wounded for trust. And realize that you must give it back in return. Otherwise, you have no business asking for it.
She leaned her body in, peeked her feet back and started to kick. She got a few feet away and popped back to standing. She did it! She trusted and she swam! Lindsay was a trustworthy presence and it gave this woman faith. Granted it was with a buoy, but she did it! By the time lessons were over, she was putting her two arms out in front of her, no buoy and flutter kicking across the shallow end of the pool! She got going so fast that her eyelashes fell off. We all got a kick and a cackle out of that! It was beautiful. I could have cried deep tears of joy, sitting there thanking Jesus for being our buoy.
We dropped her off at her clean and sober house and said goodnight until next lesson. On the way home, I asked Bella “Bella, what do you see? What do you see God doing in her life?” Bella said very simply…”I see God giving her a better life.” His Kingdom come, His will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven.