Years ago I had a serious run-in with a woman at PNC. The incident left a lasting mark. In bold is what I wrote the night of the incident.
Tonight I am tired. Maybe a more accurate description is this: I am feeling emotionally spent.
It’s true, I really was. I felt raw and wrung out; anxious and self-conscious.
After leading a service at PNC, I was verbally attacked by a community member. Something I did or said (although I do not know what) triggered outrage in her.
This person deals with significant mental illness. Knowing this, I still felt unprepared for what came out of her mouth.
I remained calm throughout our encounter, was mostly convinced that she had me confused with someone else and eventually left because it truly was the best thing for me to do. I got in to the car and took a deep breath while relishing in the quiet. Then I began to weep.
I wept for many reasons. While I believed she must have thought I was someone else, I was wrong. And this hurt. After sifting through the obscenities that she threw at me, I was left with some comments that questioned my character and motivation for doing music at a little inner-city church. I think it is highly unlikely that this person will even remember this incident, but I am left with an imprint of it on my heart. Mostly because it revealed to me, yet again, how broken we are as people.
I didn’t see this person for over a year after that night. The first time she walked through PNC’s doors I felt my stomach flip in anticipation of what the impending encounter might involve. Throughout the year I often comforted myself with the thought she would likely not remember the incident. I was wrong. She remembered. I know so because while we as a group were sharing peace with one another (through a handshake or a hug) she whispered, “I’m sorry”.
Tonight caused me to pause and think about the ugly parts of me that I keep deeply hidden- the parts that for the moment seemed revealed by a person I hardly know. While I don’t believe much of what she said, I do know that she is right: I AM a broken, sinful person.
I am still broken. I do things wrong. My friend is broken too. Her life has been hard in a different way than mine. Much of what she uttered to me that night were words all too often spoken to her: “You can’t be loved. You are unloveable. No one loves you”. Through our shared experience we are coming to terms with these untruths. No one is worthless. We are a people covered by grace.
Today I got a call from this woman. She heard about my new role at PNC and wanted to encourage me. How far we’ve come! She spoke beautifully, quietly and intently. I sat in humble awe.
I find myself overwhelmed with gratitude. The journey this woman and I have been on has truly ebbed and flowed. I could have easily believed our story was coming to a crashing halt that summer night long ago. The storm it created internally AND externally was intense. And for whatever reason God did not calm it. What I recognize now though is that God carefully guarded me (and her), providing respite from the storm while deliberately doing a new work in our hearts.
The story is still not over. Of this I am sure- there will be more chapters. I look forward to what might come next.