She walked to our restaurant table in Florence, Kentucky. Blonde, pony-tailed, heavily tattooed, our waitress answered some questions and then, somehow, told us her life story. I don’t even remember how that happened, how she opened up. But over her next several trips to our table, Leah spilled out one of the saddest stories I’ve heard–and I’ve heard a few.
- Her brother was born of an incestuous relationship between her mother and her mother’s father.
- Her mother sold the two children for drugs when they were little.
- Leah had been on drugs for several years, but had been clean for about three years, trying to make a new life for herself. She broke up with her boyfriend because he wasn’t committed to staying clean.
- She’d had three cars in the last two months, and the one she had now needed repairs.
- Her brother wanted to have a sexual relationship with her, which she refused. “I’m here to protect you, not to be your girlfriend.”
We asked if she knew God, and she said she did. “I talk to him every day.” Did she know Jesus? “Yes.” But she didn’t have a Bible, wasn’t in a church as far as we know, so I don’t know how deep her understanding of God’s nature and of Jesus’ forgiveness went. I told her that no matter what her past held, she is precious in God’s eyes and that he loves her. We were able to leave her with a Gospel of John (she said she’d buy a Bible that weekend), with some other information about how to know God through Jesus, as well as a very healthy tip, saying we wanted to bless her.
We’ll likely never see Leah again except, we pray, in heaven.
But what a divine appointment! Had we been busy chatting ourselves we may never have connected with Leah as we did.
Jesus asked questions of the people he met.
“Do you want to be made whole?” (Good question!) Is it possible that some would rather wallow in their self-pity, their dysfunction, their addiction, than be made whole?
He engaged the Samaritan woman at a well. She would come when the townswomen were not there to gather water. As a woman living in adultery, she could not join in their laughter and gossip. But Jesus was there. After they had spoken for awhile…
The woman said to Him, “I know that Messiah is coming” (who is called Christ). “When He comes, He will tell us all things.”
Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am He.”John 4:25-26. NKJV
How often do we stop long enough to listen–to the one who wants to tell her story; the one who struggles to find words because of brain cancer or dementia; the one who must weep before being able to speak; the one who hungers for someone to really hear them? Listening requires being quiet, not speaking quickly (which for me is the easier course of action).
We have a Father who is always ready to listen.
Casting all your care on him, for he cares for you.I Peter 5:7 NKJV
And the Father has given us each other, to listen, be present, and help as he leads.
Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.I John 4:11 NIV
Listening takes time. I confess that I often move from one thing to another without stopping long enough to listen. I’m working on that. I want to be available for those divine appointments God brings my way; to listen closely enough to him that I know when to slow down or stop, pay attention and love someone along my way.
My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry …James 1:19
What divine appointments have you experienced recently, or in the past? I’d love to hear.