I had an appointment last Thursday in a large office building. As I walked into the lobby, I saw a tiny, elderlywoman, sitting in a wheel chair, neatly dressed, with glasses, and a sweet smile. I tried to make eye contact and return a smile to her, but she was busy looking out the window and singing a song to herself (and to whoever else would listen). I passed with no more attention paid as went on to my appointment.
An hour and fifteen minutes later, I emerged from my meeting and noticed this same woman – Dorothy– sitting in her chair on the sidewalk. I’m not sure why – call it a random overflow of compassion or the work of the Holy Spirit (although I’m pretty sure those are the same thing) – but I felt the need to check on her. I approached slowly (people in L.A. are a bit skittishwith approaching strangers – as they should be) and asked her if she needed help, mentioning that I had seen her more than an hour before and just wanted to make sure she was taken care of.
That’s when she introduced herself. Dorothy. It’s also when she decided to chat. And I’m glad she did.
She asked me, as a young person (which I was thankful to hear), what I thought of the current presidential candidates. That’s quite the introductory question for a complete stranger! So with that, I decided to stick around and get to know this woman. An hour later I had learned the following:
Dorothy is….(in order of conversation, not importance or identity!)
– – A Democrat and not too thrilled with the Republican candidates
– – Interested in what young people think about politics
– – Living in a nearby assisted living facility
– – A survivor (of 3 heart attacks and several slipped discs!)
– – 94 years old (but she looks 80)
– – forthcoming with her compliments (She thinks i’m handsome and I also look young for my age)
And then, because I’ve been praying for God to give me more opportunities to share the Gospel and because I’m finally starting to truly believe His Gospel is the most important thing for anyone to know, I got to know a few more things about Dorothy.
Dorothy….(again in order ofconversation, but this time it was all about identity)
– – is an atheist
– – had a Jewish mother who for some reason, recited the Lord’s prayer enough that Dorothy still has it memorized
– – Prayed that prayer as a child, asking God to heal her mother, all night the night before her mother passed away
– – cites the loss of her mom and the perceived unanswered prayer as the reason for her atheism
– – envies people of faith
– – is still not a person of faith because of all the suffering in the world (and, I would guess, most because of the initial suffering and loss of her mom)
– – wishes she could know God like her Catholic friends do
At the end of this conversation, my heart was broken for Dorothy. Literally. She actually envies people who have faith in God. Envies them! But beneath her fun-loving, positive and outgoing exterior, she is so hurt and angered that God allows suffering and pain in the world, that she will not allow her envy of others to actually allow her to explore a relationship with God for herself.
As our conversation progressed, I couldn’t help myself. I couldn’t help but share in her concern for the suffering in the world, and the sorrow of losing a loved one. And I couldn’t help but share with her that God loves her – that He loves and is caring for all those who are suffering – and that while God’s love is real, there are still a lot of real questions we all ask of God. In the end, I shared with her a verse that is quickly becoming one of my favorites – not because it’s immediately satisfying – but because it speaks to our suffering and gives hope in the middle of it.
“I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” (John16:33)
When our delightful conversation was over, we agreed to meet again in 2 weeks. We both have recurring appointments in this building, so we set an appointment with each other. I look forward to seeing her again. Hopefully. It might seemmorbid, but Dorothy is 94 and while she has a youthful and enthusiastic spirit, her physical health is not that great.
Until then, I will pray for her – as I promised in the last few moments of our conversation. And I know exactly what I’ll pray….
“And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.”(Ephesians 3:18-19)
See you in two weeks, Dorothy.