It is raining hard as we make our way down I-95 South — the windshield wiper blades racing back and forth — crimson lights aglow in the stop and go traffic. We have been on the road about two hours when Ivy awakens. Our tummies are growing hungry and we decide it might be a good time to stop and satiate them and our emptying gas tank.
I see a sign for WaWa and decide that it is a safe and good place to stop for gas and as we do, we also see a Culvers — well, thank you, Lord, because Karen and I love Culvers and it will be a new experience for Ivy. We order our food and take a quiet table so that we can get to know Ivy a bit a better and the conversation takes off.
As Ivy explains to us how she found herself stranded in Sanford — she tells us of all the people she has encountered — many not so willing to help her or even speak to her. She looks at me and says, “Tam — why are you different? Why were you willing to help me when so many others didn’t want to give me a place to even sit down and rest?” I know Ivy isn’t asking a rhetorical question — she is asking from the deep places of her heart — a hurting question that begs an authentic answer — not an empty, callous one.
I look at Ivy — I really look at her and see what others are afraid to see and at that very moment I decide to make myself vulnerable — and not pull any punches — because Ivy needs to see Jesus and not Tam…and, I start:
Ivy — most people are walking around life with a great deal of hurt. Most have gaping wounds that I cannot even begin to understand. When life has served you up every raw deal that exists — when you’ve been abandoned at every turn — when it took every ounce of energy just to show up that day — most don’t feel that have anything left to give — they bearly have enough to get through it themselves. I am talking about that young lady who has nowhere to go — maybe her Daddy threw her out on her backside because she announced that she’s pregnant and the young man has left her to handle it all alone — or the single parent who is not even sure how to fill their babies bellies that night and tomorrow is not looking much brighter — how about the gentleman that walked out of the doctor’s office with the stark realization that he has about six months to live and now he needs to go home and tell his wife the life-time they had planned together has been cut short by about 40 years. I am thinking about the woman sitting on the couch in the pastors office — weeping — life has been a struggle — never easy — since the age of 5, when for the first time a man touched her in a way he never should have — she doesn’t know how to put the pieces of life together and really doesn’t want to put them together —she only wants to end her life — it is just too difficult to breathe.
You see, Ivy, everyone has a story — everyone is approaching each day from a place of hurt — and many start developing callouses on their hearts. They allow the callouses to become an armor or shields to protect them from being hurt further. Often, then, they cannot see people’s hurts because of their own.
Ivy, I am not immune to such hurt either — but I’ve allowed Christ Jesus to soften the callouses of my heart…to take suffering and use it to help others when He can. Romans 5:3-5 says,
Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope,
and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
It’s a choice, for me, Ivy — I want God to use me and so I choose to have callouses on my knees rather than my heart!
We reach our destination with Ivy and leave her in the hands of her son. As Karen and I start back, we are reminded of a verse in Hebrews regarding angels unaware — we are encouraged to help them, who are sojourner’s in a weary land — we might be entertaining angels. I don’t know if Ivy was an angel, but I do know that God is good to entrust Karen and I with her for a short time!
Be ready with a meal or a bed when it’s needed. Why, some have extended hospitality to angels without ever knowing it! Hebrews 13:2