Praying with Strangers

He didn’t know what to do after his wife took the kids and left him, so he joined a motorcycle gang, turned to drugs and drink to dull the pain.

“I don’t really blame him,” his daughter said. Still the hurt of all that shadows her. “I have a hard time crying. I can cry for others, for God even, but not for me.”

Her mama kept running long after she left her daddy. She married five times. One of those men claimed to be a Christian man. He took the kids to church and lead the family in prayer, before and after the beatings. That man believed he was the hand of God administering the discipline and wrath of God.

Her brother didn’t remember the beatings. He thought she made it all up until he got on the battlefield in Iraq and it all came to him in a rush, the way the terror of war does for those who’ve survived it.

Throughout her growing up years, she kept thinking: I don’t belong in this family. This can’t be my real life. She wasn’t like her brother, her sister, or her mother. “I never felt like I belonged in my own family. It didn’t make any sense until I went in search of my father.”

She did that in her mid-20s, after she got saved.

“How does a girl in her 20s get saved when she hasn’t grown up in a church?” I asked.

I’m never surprised anymore how these conversations spill out off strangers. This time an isolated corner of Salt Lake City airport. I was working. She sat down near me, clutching a Karen Kingsbury book.

“You like Karen Kingsbury?” I said, choosing purposely to engage a stranger.

A decade ago, she’d received a call at her home in Arizona telling her that her granddaddy was dying, so she hopped a plane east.  Her father and his father had been at odds for over 35 years. That’s no longer water under the bridge — that’s a sizable flood to try and divert. Why are we always so willing to reconcile in death what we won’t in life?

They couldn’t talk at first, her daddy and her. What is there to say to a man you love but don’t really know?

But she’d been a good study of her mama. She’d learned how to keep a bad relationship going. She asked the hospice nurses to pray for her, pray that God would give her the strength to leave the man who was her lover, the man who beat her like that other daddy-wannabe.

Thank God for good women. Those hospice ladies didn’t lecture her, didn’t boss her about her business. They simply said they would pray for her. And sure enough, it wasn’t long after her granddaddy passed, after she went back to home to the broken relationship that continued to break her, that on a particularly good day, a day when everyone was happy and laughing, she announced to her boyfriend that she was leaving him.

She moved East, to spend time getting to know her father, finally. She began to see the reason that her mama had pushed her away — she was more like her daddy than she’d ever imagined.

Her parents had met at a Bible College in Tennessee.

“Can you believe that? ” the girl asked. Her highlighted hair fell in gentle folds around a smile that flashes like a faint star twinkling. She can’t see the prettiness I do.

Sometimes it’s like we are all walking through a House of Mirrors, trying to determine which reflection is really us, unaware that every single one of those images is distorted because we are staring at the wrong thing. To really see ourselves we have to step away from the mirrors of self, and get face-to-face with God.

The mystery of us is revealed only when it’s God’s face we seek, not our own.

This, people, is why God put the law there — for our own protection — not to be contrary or arbitrary.  It’s there to help us stay the course. So we don’t come to the end of our days and realize, far too late, the path we blazed scorched the earth, burned down homes and left many severely scarred.  Shame kept her mama running, not only from her past, but from the future and the hope God had intended.

“Can I pray with you before I go?” I asked, after folding my laptop back in its bag. I wasn’t sure how much time had lapsed or exactly when the flight for home departed. Everything had been hinky-kinky since I’d called home early that morning and found out the husband was sick. I paid the extra $50 to change the flights so I could get home earlier, though still not early. It’s a long way from Pensacola to Pasco.

So I knelt there in that airport and prayed with this young girl. Prayed for God to redeem it all. God doesn’t plan our hurts but he won’t waste them either. He takes the refuse of life and creates beauty from brokeness.

He is Creator God. An Artist and a Poet.

An hour or so later, at the end of the D-Gates, I pulled out my ticket and checked my seat: 6A, when I looked over and saw her standing yonder, holding her own ticket.

“Where are you headed?” I asked.

“Pasco to visit a friend,” she said.  “What about you?”

“Same,” I said. “What seat are you in?”

She looked at her ticket: 6B

Right there at the D-Gates, among a standing-room only crowd, we laughed as God whispered his poetry over us.

About Karen Spears Zacharias

Author. Speaker. Journalism Instructor. Four kids. Three dogs. One grandson.

  • Erin Fowler

    Praise!!! Thank You for speaking His words!!! Why does it make me cry to read about his Grace and perfect order of events, but I find myself Wander in thoughts when I read His word from our Life guide??? Karen thank you for allowing yourself to be His vessel!!!
    Erin

    • Karen Spears Zacharias

      Erin: “Perfect order of events” I love that! My life seems so chaotic at times — it’s good to know that behind the hectic lunch counter there is some sort of order.

  • http://www.garynelson.wordpress.com Gary

    Beautiful story! Thanks for sharing. God’s Poetry strikes again!

    • Karen Spears Zacharias

      Tim said, “This stuff happens to you all the time. I love it when you come home and tell me about it.”

  • http://faithwarming.blogspot.com April Terry

    Wow. I just needed a little beauty this morning, and you provided it like a glass of water in a desert. This story illustrates how much we need each other. We aren’t just random individuals wandering in a world of chaos, but rather people who pass in and out of each other’s lives like a perfectly orchestrated symphony. What a wonderful and gracious maestro we have!

    • Karen Spears Zacharias

      April: So glad this blessed you. And, yeppers, we serve the God of needlepoint — every single stitch matters.

  • River Jordan

    Karen,
    How amazing and wonderful that you were there and took time to listen to this girl’s story. And then to have angels arranging seats for you to be together for the flight home. I just love it. Thank you for Sharing.

    River

  • http://katdish.net katdish

    Whoa. How cool is that?

    • Karen Spears Zacharias

      Waaayyyy cooollll.

  • Arlis Mitchell

    Karen, what a beautiful story. Only God! Divine appointments are such a blessing and He loves doing it as much as we love being a part of His Big Plan. He orchestrates so beautifully, and all we have to do is “be available”. Beautiful!

    • Karen Spears Zacharias

      Arlis: I love the musical image you’ve brought to this story. He does, indeed, orchestrate. To the point that my husband said, “Well if this is the reason I had to get the flu, it was worth it.” Haha.

  • http://www.sdunnpastor.wordpress.com STEVE DUNN

    This post spoke to me a truth that many of us forget.
    Sometimes it’s like we are all walking through a House of Mirrors, trying to determine which reflection is really us, unaware that every single one of those images is distorted because we are staring at the wrong thing. To really see ourselves we have to step away from the mirrors of self, and get face-to-face with God.

    The mystery of us is revealed only when it’s God’s face we seek, not our own.

    Thank you, Karen, for another great story and reflection.

    • Karen Spears Zacharias

      Steve: One of the things I love most about writing is when the words boomerang back at me, as they did in this instance. I’m thankful this truth spoke to you as well.

  • http://www.JanetOberholtzer.com Janet Oberholtzer

    The mysteries of life confuse me sometimes (who am I kidding, they OFTEN confuse me) … some say God plans everything, some say it’s all chance, some say who cares and the list goes on …

    So I really like this thought …
    “God doesn’t plan our hurts but he won’t waste them either. He takes the refuse of life and creates beauty from brokeness. He is Creator God. An Artist and a Poet.”

    Thank you!

  • Virginia

    God is like that. My granddaughter told me last night what she thinks God looks like: “tall, white, long gray hair, long white robe.” I used to think of God like that (the Grandpa God). Then later I thought of him like the Dad God. Now, I suspect God is more like my grandma, the kind who will hit you with a flip flop if she has to, but will love you lots and lots if you will let her. Grandma God. Three in one. All inclusive.

  • http://www.tonysimmons.info Tony

    Beautiful story.

  • Debbie

    I have been awol for a few weeks – kids maxed out the internet downloads so I was reduced to dial up speed. What an amazing story to read first and much needed…I too was struck by the same part Steve Dunn quoted…beautiful!


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