Murphy’s law seemed to be at it again; if it could go wrong, it did. It started when my husband had left to go out of the country for a particularly difficult assignment. Before he even boarded his plane, we were notified that he had spent several hundreds of dollars…..in California. Someone had stolen his credit card information. Meanwhile, stateside, I had some bills that need to be paid at the courthouse. In all of the stress and phone calls I completely missed my opportunity to pay on-time. Ugh! I hate late payments! Over the next several days, and without the presence of my husband, I had an infection in my mouth, broke my glasses, had a child throwing up sick, and nearly lost my job over a critical oversight. Not my best week. My husband didn’t have it much easier. He nearly lost a finger due to infection that was exacerbated by his travel. Once he landed and visited the doctor, he began a round of antibiotics, but received the wrong kind. Several visits later and over a week of me worrying he would finally be on the mend. It was a very difficult and weary two weeks, but it turned out God was working, and not Murphy’s law after all.
I didn’t realize it, but I was in need of a great humbling. After a difficult week, I did what any average American women would do, and loaded my kids up for McDonald’s. I wouldn’t have to prepare at least one meal, and I completely planned on, and relished the thought of, sitting in my booth alone and mindlessly taking the time to breathe. McDonald’s was a fairly busy place. As I watched the kids play, I couldn’t help but also watch the coming and going of others. I’m pretty sure I was privy to someone’s blind date gone wrong, or maybe the worst job interview I’ve ever seen. Who knows?
And then there was Abigail. Abigail was someone that I knew from high school. I didn’t know much about her, but I knew she had great artistic ability (a passion of mine) and beautiful blonde hair. She was older than I was, and someone that I looked up to from a distance. I remember her as having the perfect Marilyn Monroe type birthmark on her cheek, and a warm smile for all.
She brought a backpack full of toys and set different activities around her table; a place to paint rocks-here and other trinkets-there. Her nails were nicely painted and she looked well put together, despite her obvious nervousness as she waited.
A man, I assumed was her ex-husband, brought in three children moments later. She went on about how good they looked, about how she missed them, and tried to engage them in conversation the best she could. None of them seem much interested in the things or activities she brought. In fact, because it was McDonald’s, they all opted to play with the other children going in and out of the play area. Abigail sat down across from the man at the table as he began to ask her a battery of questions. After 45 minutes or so of this, he collected the children and left. She followed them to the door, waving and smiling, calling out to them… reminding them, “Mommy loves you!” She watched for a moment but, when they were well out-of-sight, her countenance melted. She sat down at the table with all the trinkets and toys before her and stared. Slowly, she began to sweep everything into her backpack.
I saw a desperate and broken woman. I went over to speak to her. As I went to introduce myself, she told me she remembered me. “Girl, you’re as pretty now as you were in high school,” were the first words out of her mouth. As she saw I also had children and recognized me from school, she began to open up.
I watched as she put each item into her bag and lamented over her children’s disinterest. She had not received her intended reaction. “I was hoping p—- would love this. I remember how k—-used to love to paint. Would your kids be interested in any of this? Here, they can have these.” I suddenly realized what I had witnessed.
Abigail is a woman who has endured a lot of trauma. She told me she had been sexually abused from as young as she can remember. Her original family unit would often treat her like an animal, and even cage her up. As she got older, she had gotten deep into heavy drugs, married an abusive man who was a heroin addict, and, eventually, began using too. She was honest about the difficulties of staying clean. At one point in her life she thought herself to be a witch. As she has witnessed some outrageous things, things she couldn’t explain, she confessed she often wasn’t sure what was real or not. She was dealing with all kinds of psychotic and demonic issues. She had grown up in bondage, and had known little else.
She told me she had worked extra hard in high school and received an art degree at the local community college but had not known where to go from there. She had separated from her abusive husband but, because of her drug use, her children had been taken away from her. The man I saw her talking to was her caseworker.
She was currently trying to get into a variety of live-in drug rehab facilities. She had no resources and was living with a man who took her in simply so she wouldn’t have to sleep on the street. Through his story, he told me he also had a history of abuse (though not familial) and, because of it, had opened his heart and ultimately his home to Abigail. He had been raised in a much healthier environment, his dad was a Pentecostal preacher, and his generosity towards her was very “good Samaritan” like. He knew where she was coming from. She was grateful because he had taken her in not expecting anything for payment; no favors…no physical relationship…no drugs.
She verbalized her surprised that he would attribute any value to her life whatsoever and was absolutely unprepared that anybody would care for her without exchange or gain of some sort. She asked me, in all sincerity, what this was about. Why would anyone act towards her this way, in light of what she just told me, and despite her past issues?
I told her Jesus loved her. I told her God has given every one of us value. I told her that God loved us so much He sent us Jesus, and He upholds our dignity. Jesus loved the disadvantaged, the outcast, the widow, the lame, the demon possessed, and was moved to compassion on their behalf. Oh, how Jesus loved. I simply told this woman the truth; that she had value and that God loved her. She was not beyond the bounds of God’s love and forgiveness. Abigail publicly wept, right there in the McDonald’s play place. After a period of time time, through tears, she looked me in the eyes and said, “God is after me.”
I am so glad that God runs after all of us.
I’m not sure where Abigail is today. I was not able to keep in contact as she was without a preeminent residence or phone. I am praying for deliverance, that Abigail will no longer be stuck under the bondage of sin and that her battle will be one she will win through the power of Christ.
I sometimes wonder if I would have been as receptive or loving to Abigail had I not endured a particularly difficult week. Many times I think my pride gets in the way, but in this particular instance God had done a great humbling in the days before.
This also brings up the point that there are abused, marginalized, sick and demonically oppressed people everywhere. This is not some foreign country, another state, or a large city. Abuse and terrible atrocities are happening every day all around us and we need to keep our eyes open. But even more, we need to keep our spiritual eyes open and be obedient to the Holy Spirit.
What part I had in Abigail‘s journey was small. I simply told her she was loved and had God-given value. God may be calling you to do something big. As people of God we should surrender completely to His will, and be ready to act sacrificially when led. In order to love like Christ we must love unworthy people. Jesus said, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:12-13 ESV
May God be glorified, in all we say and do.
Let us not forget our own deficiencies. We are all in need, we all come wanting. Only when we can be honest about our own sin do we open ourselves up to the grace of God. It is only through the power and work of the cross that we can and deal with sin constructively, without fear. It is only through the Holy Spirit’s help that we can address the heart of our sin issues. It is because of this work God has done in us that we should be empathetic and loving towards others when they show us their weaknesses. The Christian understands we all need Jesus, everyday.
We need to reach out, past our comfortable self-imposed boundaries and allow ourselves to see the hurting and disadvantaged.
When we love the “unlovable”, when we hope for the hopeless, when we extend grace to those who don’t deserve it, and when we show compassion, we can’t help but grow in our understanding of God’s love, not just for those who are around us, but for ourselves.
And we become Christ-like particularly when our love goes beyond platitudes and rests in humble, God driven action. May we never forget how Jesus loves.
Written by Melanie Barnfield. Melanie Barnfield is an artist, closet introvert, wordsmith, and lover of Christ. She has been married 14 years to the love of her life, and has been blessed with 4 beautiful children. Residing in Benton, IL, she is an avid reader who enjoys teaching, gardening, and photography.