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by Tom Birch
As he pulled back onto the road, he was shaking and wondered if he shouldn't stay off to the side for awhile. "What just happened back there, God?" he asked out loud.
"You tell me." He sensed the reply.
"Let's see. I left the church after a message on how prayer is just talking to our Father. You know it's been awhile since I was going to church and even longer since I talked, or listened, to you like a Father."
"Yes, I've missed that."
"Well, I thought I should try it as I was driving. So I began telling you about how I want to make up to my family for the last few years. In the middle of my reverie, I saw this lady thumbing at a bus stop. She looked tired and I thought you might be nudging me to give her a lift."
"I was." The confirmation came in the silence of his truck.
"So I stopped and she got in. That's when I started to think she might not just be waiting for the bus. I wasn't sure at first. She was younger than I had thought, maybe in her mid-thirtys. But the years hadn't been kind to her. I introduced myself and asked her name and where she was going."
"I'm Sarah and I'm going to work in town," she said. "Just up on the corner of 56th and 200th, can you drop me there?"
"'Sure,' I said. 'I'm going right past there. What do you do?'"
"I just work on the streets."
That cinched it for me, she was a prostitute. I panicked for a second. "Father, I knew that if you wanted me to talk to her, you must have something planned for me to say."
"But what could I possibly say to her that wouldn't sound like a holier-than-thou sermon?" He paused to reflect on the memory and was instantly aware of a reply.
"My son, I heard your question even though you didn't think that you'd prayed it properly."
"I'd hardly had time to think at all God! But somehow I knew you'd answered me. You told me not to bother with all my religious answers, but to just tell her about me. But that was even more terrifying."
"I know. That's when I prompted her to ask her question."
"Do you ever party?" she queried.
"I told her that I used to go to strip bars and massage parlors and watch porn movies. It killed me to admit it to her and I nearly didn't. Then I told her that I had a new life now and I was trying to keep Jesus in the centre of it."
"You're trying to find Jesus but I'm just trying to find twenty bucks," she replied.
"'No,' I corrected her 'I've found Jesus, What I'm trying to do each day is remember and live like I've found him. I've done a 12-step and I'm just working the steps.' We didn't have much else to say, so we rode the rest of the way in silence."
He could almost see the smile on God's face as his spirit heard him say, "But you were listening hard to me by then, weren't you?"
"Yes father, I was. So I knew what to do when I pulled over to let her out. I guess I'd spooked her and she started to bolt from the car but I stopped her.
"'Sarah, here's twenty bucks. It's a poor apology to all the girls like you that I've known. I'm sorry.' She paused to take the money and I put my hand lightly on her shoulder and prayed. 'Jesus, keep Sarah safe as she works today and let her know that you love her.'"
"Thanks," she stammered. "If I ever find my higher power, I wish you could be around to see it," and she was gone.
"But father, I still don't understand. I didn't really help her and I know she'll spend the money on drugs. What really just happened back there?"
"You're right, you didn't save her. Just like you never destroyed the other girls you've met in the past. For them, you were just one hand among thousands pushing them down. For Sarah today, you've been one of my hands among many lending support. Her soul is mine and you will never know any more of her story, but what have you seen about your own?"
"Oh, I know where you're going," he sighed. "The girls I've spent time with were younger and prettier. They either knew how to pretend they were having fun, or else they didn't yet know the consequences life was leading them to. Probably, Sarah used to be like them. But today I saw a tired woman, who was down to selling herself for twenty dollars. I could see the sorrow in her eyes that I've missed in so many others."
"Yes. I weep with those who don't yet know enough to weep for themselves. To see the end from the beginning means knowing the consequences even during the initial pleasures of sin. Back there, I let you see what is always foremost to me. Can you remember that?"
copyright Tom Birch, 2006
Tom Birch lives in Salmon Arm, BC with his wife and 3 children, where they attend Living Waters Pentecostal Church. He has the Bachelor of Theology from a Baptist College and works with Forestry systems in Canada and the U.S.A. Recent published work includes a poem (The Hound of Man) published in the Reverent Submissions Journal.
Contact Tom Birch at TBirch@genusrmt.ca
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