The last cloud burst drew me to the window. I couldn’t believe how quickly the rain grew from a sprinkle to a downpour.
That’s when I saw her; a young woman sitting on the benches in front of the church. She sat silent in her long plaid coat, the legs of her thin pants hanging sloppy in soggy weight. With head bowed, she clutched a large purse and a plastic bag, and her coarse hair streaked of haphazard attempts at coloring.
I paused for a moment wondering why she didn’t choose to stand beneath the patio overhang of the church. Instead, I grabbed my umbrella and went to the door.
Her head lifted at the sound of the latch and a warm smile broke out through tears.
“Hello. Can I help you?” I called.
She rose and met me, and we stepped inside to talk.
In a voice, weak and mousy, she spoke of hardship and want. She sought direction in many forms, and despite the uneasiness in my spirit, for some reason the Lord brought her to me on that cold, wet day.
I’d seen and dealt with similar “situations” before. A church seems the first stop for even the non-believer and unfortunately a target for those with deceitful hearts. I remained cautious and guarded having heard stories from other church secretaries of dangerous situations brought on by desperation.
(Matthew 25:34-35) NIV
I offered what I could, wished her well, and watched her disappear around the corner holding my umbrella against the wind and rain. Whether her story was fiction or non, rehearsed or from a truly desperate heart, only God knows and He will take her motives into account.
However, sharing the incident later in the day with the pastor revealed that I had indeed been taken advantage of as she had received a free meal from him the week prior. Her story, rehearsed and written on a small tattered card had fallen on ears of others eager to offer assistance.
It’s a struggle when, as Christians, we are called to respond to such instances with the knowledge we’ve been given. Our human nature wants to pull us back, warn of possible hurt by laying our good intentions on the line to be either trampled or to bless. Either way, God will be the judge of both.
But if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need,
yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him?
(1 John 3:17) ESV
Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor,
doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may
have something to share with anyone in need.