Several years ago, I walked into a worship center in Tennessee. I was there visiting someone else, so with a heavy heart and thin faith I took my seat. To say I was broken is an understatement. I was shattered. To say I was lost doesn’t come close to where I was spiritually, physically, and emotionally.
As I came into the hall and sat down, I noticed a young woman behind me. The music began and we sang the opening hymn before the greeting. After the song I turned to say hello to her, and as I did she held onto my hand. I mean, she had it in a death grip. I drank her in for a moment. Pale complexion, stringy hair, missing teeth, defeat in her eyes. But deep inside her I could see a flicker of life. After all, she had made it to the facility and that in and of itself was a giant leap that took extraordinary strength.
My heart broke for her immediately. She was the victim of a disease that so many battle and it was evident in her eyes. She smiled a small smile and said, “I heard you sing. It was pretty.” I laughed before I caught myself. “Honey…My kids say I sound like a cat caught in a rocking chair! But, thank you!” She lowered her eyes for a moment and held on to my hand and said, “It was beautiful to me.” I froze.
I looked into those eyes and searched for a sign of anything. Hope? Awareness? Determination? After a moment she flung herself into my arms and held me in a bear hug. Desperate for love and affection, she sobbed. I placed my arms around her and ran my fingers through her hair while she cried in my arms. “Shhhhh. It’s okay, honey,” I crooned as she sobbed. “Am I going to beat this?” she cried. “Yes, darling, you are. You are stronger and braver than you realize. You know through Christ you can do all things, right?”
After a moment she stopped crying. She raised her head, ran her hand across her nose, and took a step back. The music began to play again. She smiled through her tear-blurred eyes. “Yes, I do. I’m going to be okay. I’m so sorry! ” She seemed embarrassed and a little unsure of herself. With tears now streaming down my face I hugged her again and said, “No, sweetheart. Don’t you be sorry! You blessed my heart today. Everyone has their battles sweet girl. We all fight them…just on different battlefields. I walked in here hurting and thanks to you, I have hope now, too. One small hug, baby girl, can change someone’s day. Thank you for blessing my heart and giving me hope today as well.” She smiled and we sang.
How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me
I once was lost, but now am found
Was blind but now I see
I have loved that song all my life. I’ve been singing it since I was a child. But after that Sunday, it has new meaning. You see, what my head knew all along, my heart learned in the arms of a young woman of great courage battling the stronghold of addiction (grace is amazing and designed for all of us, even a wretch like me). I realized in that moment that we are all wretches, so no one has the right to judge me and vice versa.
Everyone has their battles sweet girl. We all fight them…just on different battlefields.
My beaten down, broken heart entered that worship hall heavy and not entirely convinced God was anywhere near me. After one song and a hug, my heart aligned with what my head already knew. God’s grace is in never ending abundance for each one of us. It is delivered through Christ and paid for in his blood. It covers all sins. All the time. It is limitless and endless. Jesus is there for the taking. Take all you need.
Folks, never miss the opportunity to love on someone. But more importantly, don’t miss the opportunity to be loved on. Christianity is always a two-way street! Grace is a one size fits all gift from God that can’t be returned or earned. It is simply a gift. When you wear it well, you pass it on by example of your own mistakes and life.
I think of her often. I saw her a few more times that month when I visited there and each time she looked stronger and healthier. Her inner beauty was shining through, and she looked younger and brighter. I pray that she won her battle, and that she is healthy and well. Above all I pray a prayer of gratitude because I will forever be thankful for the love she showed me while I was fighting a different, but equally tough battle.
Kindness. A simple word. A simple act. The seed that is planted from which great things can be grown. Faith and hope sprout from kindness. Love and peace are its blooms.
For more encouragement during difficult seasons, check out this episode from This Grit and Grace Life podcast: How to Handle Real-Life Struggles That Challenge Your Faith – 112