The Girl Named E--

I can't remember exactly when I first met her. But I vividly remember my feeling of utter panic when God told me to go talk to her...

I'm on the praise team, so I always spot the new people when they come into church. I saw her walk in, and sit shyly down at the back. I saw that no-one else was really stopping to spend time with her. And then I heard God telling me "you need to go talk to that girl."

I hesitated for several minutes, hunting for an excuse to not go. "God," I said, "You know I'm terrible at chatting with people. I can't make small talk to save my life. What on earth am I going to say to her?" But God wouldn't accept my excuses. I could feel the pressure of His urging, and I knew that I needed to obey. "OK, God. Here goes. Please give me the words to say."

So I walked up to her, shaking like a leaf, and introduced myself. She said that her name was E--, but volunteered no other information. This conversation was completely up to me.

I sat down, and started to talk. Most of what I said was probably quite silly, but at least I was able to say something. Before long, I had her laughing, and even volunteering a bit of information about herself. No, let's rephrase that. Before long, God had her laughing and talking. I am quite sure that I really had nothing to do with it.

We talked for a few minutes before heading into Sunday school, where she clammed up again. We may or may not have talked again afterwards. I can't really remember. I was so relieved and grateful and excited that the rest of the day passed in a kind of haze.

Fast forward several months, to another Sunday morning.

I had dragged my protesting body out of bed at an early hour, and stumbled to the shower. I was standing under the water, blearily scrubbing my hair, when E-- suddenly popped into my head. I hadn't really thought about her in a long time, but I spent some of my shower time in praying for her.

Imagine my surprise when E-- walked into church that morning! Again, I spent my spare time talking to her. This time, she was a bit more outgoing. She kept up her end of the conversation, and, right before she left, she said that she'd look me up on Facebook. I waited eagerly for the friend request. When it was not forthcoming, I even spent some time searching for her. All to no avail. I didn't see her or have contact with her again for over a year.

Fast forward to the Wednesday before Easter.

We normally have a church prayer meeting on Wednesday night. That Wednesday it was a bit different than usual. We prayer-walked the church and the parking lot, interceding for all of the unsaved newcomers who would be at church on Easter, and asking God to send His Spirit in a mighty way. As I walked and prayed, I heard God telling me that I would be reaching out to someone on Sunday.

I was, naturally, quite excited to see who it was going to be. And yep, you guessed it. While I was up in front, practicing with the praise team, I saw E-- walk in. Instantly, I knew she was the person God had told me about. I went and found her as soon as I had finished practicing.

She had changed - dramatically - since the last time I'd seen her. She had changed her hair color and cut so much that it had taken me a minute to recognize her at first. But the changes went much, much deeper than that. Before, I'd sensed that she was shy, unsure, and maybe just a bit depressed. Now, she barely took her eyes off the ground. She answered questions as quickly and evasively as possible. She said that she never went to church unless she was staying with her grandpa (who comes to my church), but it was not just a careless statement. There was definite hostility in her tone. Everything about her was hostile. She was pushing everyone away just as hard as she could. Was she afraid? Angry? Convinced that no-one cared?

We sat in awkward silence for a moment, as I groped for something to say. I was determined not to be pushed away. Somehow, I knew that she desperately needed someone to love her, to care about her. And I did love her. My heart was about to burst with God's love and compassion. I had sat in the same place where she was sitting...afraid, lonely, judgmental, angry at everyone (especially God and the church), daring anyone to try and care about me...secretly hoping that they would. I prayed, "God, help me!"

Our conversation was very slow in getting off the ground. It was stilted, and I was still nervous. I didn't want to say too much, or too little. How could I express my concern without driving her away? If only she would look me in the eyes - read me and allow me to read her.

Slowly, cautiously, she began to open up. She told me a few things about her life. Nothing important, but I sensed that she was beginning to let me in. Maybe, just maybe, she would accept and trust me. It all ended abruptly when the rest of the class came into the Sunday school room. E-- shut down again. Her walls came back up. She answered everyone's polite questions with short, evasive, rudeness - shoving them away again. I don't think she said more than two sentences during the entire class.

I talked to her a little more in the interval between Sunday school and church. She voluntarily introduced me to her dad. I felt that this was another tiny step of trust, but I didn't have time to wait for anything more. That was the last time I got to talk to her. She and her family left immediately after the service. I didn't even get a chance to wave goodbye.

I still have no idea where God wants to go with all of this, but I'm sure it's leading somewhere. Something about E-- has grabbed my heart. God has given me His eyes to see through her withdrawn facade to the beauty and hunger that's beneath. I'm as concerned about her as I would be about a member of my own family. I can't get her off my mind.

Please, God, guard E-- and keep her safe. Show her the hope that can only be found in You. Please overwhelm her with the love that only You can give. Thank You for bringing her into my life, and giving me the wonderful opportunity of loving like You. Lord, even if I never see E-- again, I know that I was somehow part of Your plan for her life. I trust that You will work Your perfect will in her life. I, by myself, can do nothing to help her, so I commit her to Your loving hands.