Why do they have to talk in the hallway at 5:00am? I wondered after waking up and looking at the time.
The talking went on, so I peeked in the hallway to see a policeman at the motel door kitty corner from ours. The woman who was speaking to the officer had checked in the same time as us the evening before. She had seemed a bit confused and discombobulated at check-in time. She brought in boxes along with her suitcases.
The words I heard from her now were, “I’m just trying to save lives,” and “I’ll be checking out of here soon.”
A moment after I closed the door the policeman said goodbye to the woman, and I could hear him walking down the hallway toward the elevator.
I said a general prayer for the situation and for this lady who seemed troubled.
The next day I asked the desk clerk why the police had come.
“That lady said that there was danger for the whole state of Tennessee.” He made a gesture toward his head—the one that communicates, “she’s crazy.” He added, “She has called the police again, and we have asked her to leave.” He pointed behind me and put his index finger to his lips to quiet me as I started to ask another question.
I turned and saw her and the policeman walk into the lobby.
Not long after while my husband and I got ready for the memorial service we were in Tennessee to attend, I was in the hall and saw this stranger walk past with her luggage and boxes on a cart. I said a quick “hello” and went into my daughters’ motel room to ask them a question.
As we were leaving for the memorial service, I saw the cart of this woman’s belongings near the entrance of the motel, but there was no sign of her.
In the car I thought, I should have said something. I should have offered her words of encouragement and hope and somehow have been the light of Christ to her. Instead I had backed off from her in my heart—just like others had.
The regret went on. If anyone should have ministered to her, it should have been me. I work with the mentally ill. But a part of me said, “I’m off of work; I don’t want to deal with people with behavior problems. Don’t I do enough of that on the job?
The “I should have…” thoughts came after the fact—after I knew I wouldn’t see her again.
How many times I had said those same “I should have…” words of regret after passing by or avoiding a troubled person.
The thought that came next was, What should I do now? I asked it of the Lord.
Pray for her.
I did—again–but felt sad that I didn’t even know her name.
And then these came to my mind:
–Determine to have a different response to such people next time.
–Know there will be a next time.
–Invite Me into the situation at the beginning by asking, “Lord, what should I do here?”
–Listen for My voice moment by moment and continue to ask Me questions.
–Do not take steps back from a troubled person unless I instruct you to.
As I reflected on the situation, I saw that I allowed self-protection instead of love to rule.
Today—a little over two days after a missed opportunity in a motel in Athens, Tennessee–I am praying for a more compassionate heart and to more and more have a heart like Jesus who saw hurting people and invaded their lives with hope and encouragement.
Next time instead of regretting I want to be rejoicing “after the fact” that I reached out to a hurting person just like Jesus would.
After this experience, this song I heard recently came to mind.
“The Twenty-first Time” by Monk and Neagle