I recently experienced two seemingly unrelated encounters which are clearly connected by one unmistakable thread. Perhaps the retelling will encourage someone else to remember an unfailing truth: God sees you.
The first encounter happened as I exited the University of Cincinnati hospital after visiting my father. It was late, visiting hours were soon over, and I was one of two passengers on the elevator. These hospital elevators are painfully slow and the woman opposite me seemed to be troubled.
“Tough day?” I asked. She didn’t look at me, but continued to stare at the door. People in elevators always seem fixated on the door. Silence.
“Yeah,” she said after an uncomfortable pause. “…and I don’t know how to get out of here either.”
“I can help with that. I’ve been here more than a few times. Where did you park?” She told me the location of her car and I offered to point her in the correct direction.
Due to security concerns, the hospital locks down immediately after visiting hours every night. We were locked in and had to exit by the less convenient emergency room entrance. The woman walked in front of me, only glancing at me as I gave direction. We exited the hospital, the parking garage in plain sight. “You know where you are at now?” I wanted to make sure she was oriented before rushing to my own car. She finally slowed and looked at me for the first time.
“Yes, my car is right over there. Thank you for helping.” Her eyes and nose were red from tears. She didn’t move away, standing for a moment on the sidewalk outside the well-lit but dreary parking structure.
“You have had a rough day,” I ventured. “Would you mind if I prayed for you before you go to your car?” She burst into tears and out came her life story. She was also there to see her father, with whom her relationship had been distant. Her job was stressing her out. She was lonely and had no one close to share her grief. She felt like God had abandoned her and that she was just too small to see.
Our “chance” encounter was no chance at all. God put me in that elevator at that time, then challenged me to speak to her, something I just don’t normally do, then made sure we had to exit together and finally caused her to stop walking ahead so I could tell her that God does see her and that his love for her knows no bounds.
Fast forward several weeks. I attended a speaking engagement with our son, Lionel. In spite of the buzz beforehand, not one person showed up. Not even one. We waited in the empty room, just enjoying chatting together, then loitered “five more minutes” just to be sure we didn’t miss a late-comer. We gathered our things, locked up, and exited the building. At the same time we were getting into the car to leave, a woman wandered up to the parking lot. Even a quick glance revealed that she had recently endured a beating or perhaps been in a fight. Shorts and a sleeveless t-shirt left bare the open wounds and obvious scars of injection sites. She listlessly ambled up to the front of the building and took out her phone. Lionel and I spoke about what we should do and agreed we should at least make sure she wasn’t in immediate danger. We asked if she needed help and she said she was just going to use the building’s open WiFi to make a call and get someone to pick her up. We told her that we were going to run a quick errand and then check back on her in case she couldn’t reach anyone.
We did our errand run and returned in less than ten minutes. The woman was still there. We offered to give her a ride. She said she lived a distance away but was unable to get anyone to come help her out. I was familiar with where she needed to go and she accepted the offer of the ride. She piled her things into the back seat of my car and Lionel and I began the 30 minute journey with her.
First came her name. Then the story of abandonment by her “friends” who left her alone on the street. Then the names of her grandparents, with whom she said she lived. Then her six siblings, of whom she was the oldest. Then the ages of her own two young children who she rarely sees. Then her admission to addiction to “just about anything I can take” and, by implication, that she was currently high. Then her desire to get some addiction recovery help and the steps she was taking. Then her confession that she did believe in God, but that “religion is not my thing.” Lastly her disbelief that God could or would do anything to help her.
Lionel told her that God was helping her even right now. Lionel told her it was no coincidence that no one showed up to the event, that we stayed longer than we really should have stayed. That we noticed that she may have needed help and offered it to her was evidence enough that God saw her and that he wanted her to know that He saw her.
After the half-hour drive, we delivered the woman to the place of her choice. We made sure she had what she needed at the moment, prayed with her and left.
I would love to report some spectacular “miracle” from either or both of these “chance” encounters. I have nothing to offer other than the affirmation that in this world of the #metoo movement, when so many women are unveiling the horrific suffering they’ve endured, that the God who created each one of them valuable and beautiful still sees them and deeply cherishes them. He is calling every woman to receive the love only He is able to provide and the status only He can bestow, daughter of the Most High King.
What a different world would it be if every man was committed to believing and repeating that truth and every woman was willing to receive it?
Does he not see my ways and number all my steps?- Job 31:4