Friday, March 2, 2012

May They No Longer Be Strangers

This story was written on April 24, 2011, and is reposted from another blog.

I decided to take my cross to a new intersection this evening--the corner of McBean Parkway and Creekside Road, in Valencia, CA. I was blessed to have my daughter, Marissa, with me. Having my daughters join me while I carry the cross is often an opportunity for us to talk, to catch up. This evening was no different.

Marissa and I stood on the southwest corner. In an hour's time, hundreds of motorists saw the cross. The response we received, positive and negative, was nothing out of the ordinary.

At one point, our attention was drawn to two people cheering as they sat in a late-model, convertible Corvette. When we turned and looked their way, the driver pumped his fists in the air and his female passenger made the sign of the cross with her fingers. It was obvious by their demeanor that they were in favor of the presence of the cross. When the light changed, they proceeded through the intersection and headed northbound on McBean Parkway.

Our attention was drawn a second time to people cheering. It was the same couple in the Corvette returning to the shopping center they had exited when we had first seen them.

Marissa and I continued to chat when we were approached by a man. His name was Jeff. He was the man who was the driver of the Corvette. Upon closer inspection, his appearance did not match the car he drove. His clothing was disheveled and his shirt was badly stained in several places. He looked tired. But he was very friendly.

"Are you homeless?" He asked. "Do you need something to eat?"

"Oh, no. We live here in Santa Clarita." I said.

"I told my wife that you didn't look homeless to me. We're from San Diego and there are homeless people on every corner. I told her, 'No. They love Jesus!' So why are you out here with the cross?"

"We're hoping to have conversations with people like you." I said.

"I'm a Jesus Freak!" He declared. "My wife loves Jesus, too, but she has a problem with alcohol. So you're sure we can't buy you dinner or something?"

"No, really. Thank you for your kindness. We were planning to head home for dinner in just a few minutes."

"Well, my wife is probably buying you dinner right now."

We chuckled.

Jeff turned, looked up the sidewalk, pointed, and said, "And here she comes. See. I told you she was going to buy you something to eat."

Walking down the sidewalk was his wife, the woman we saw sitting in the passenger seat of the Corvette. Staggering is a better way to describe her gait. In her right hand she carried a plastic grocery bag.

When she arrived at the corner Jeff introduced her to us. Her name was Tricia. Like Jeff, her clothes were disheveled and dirty. Her hair was knotted and unkempt. The odor of an alcoholic beverage was heavy on her breath. Her eyes were bloodshot and watery. Her speech was slurred. One didn't have to be a trained observer like a police officer to conclude that Tricia was very intoxicated.

Jeff explained to Tricia that we were not homeless in need of food. Tricia was unconvinced. I thanked her for her kindness and we accepted the bag, which contained two large bags of chips. One was open and half-eaten.

Jeff tried to convince Tricia it was time to leave; but to no avail. So, Jeff simply walked away, leaving Tricia behind.

Tricia began to tell me about her life--her very troubled life.

Tricia served as a police officer in Salt Lake City and Chicago--eight years in each city. To look at Tricia, you would not believe that she was once a law enforcement professional. But I knew in my heart I was speaking to a sister behind the badge--a sister who had been broken by the profession.

"I don't know when it happened." She said. "But it just all started coming back. You know?"

I smiled and nodded my head.

"I had to kill two people. If I hadn't, my lieutenant would have been dead. I worked narcotics, undercover. It's just all coming back."

"I know, Tricia. I know."

"And then I started drinking. I hate it! I hate it!" Tears welled in her eyes. "I love Jesus, but I just can't burden Him with all my stuff."

"But that's exactly what He wants you to do." I said. There is nothing you've experienced that He does not understand. And there is no sin you've committed that He cannot forgive. Turn to Him."

"That's what I don't get."

"What do you mean?"

"I just don't understand why He would die for my sins. I can't dump my stuff on Him."

"Tricia, that's pride."

"It probably is."

"Until you let go of your pride, until you repent and truly turn to Him, there will be no freedom for you. Turn to Him, Tricia."

Tricia and I talked for about a half-hour. I tried to gently reason with her, realizing that I had no idea how much she was comprehending through the fog of her drunken state.

My heart broke for her. "Tricia, you and I have both had friends who have died in the line-of-duty. And their sacrifice always reminds me of something Jesus said. 'Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends' (John 15:13). And Christ's sacrifice on the cross is more than sufficient to cover your sins, your hurt, your pain. Turn to Him and live, Tricia."

I reached into my bag and removed a token I give only to police officers--a Ten-Four Ministries Challenge Coin. I want you to have this. I only give it to brothers and sisters behind the badge.

"What can I give you for this?"


Jeff returned to the corner to once again try to get Tricia to walk back to the car. Tricia staggered toward the street. I grabbed her arm to keep her from falling into traffic.

Jeff put his arm around Tricia to steady her. "I love Jesus, he said. And Tricia is born-again, too."

"Jeff, Tricia doesn't believe that. She has yet to come to understand why Jesus died on the cross."

In an effort to encourage and comfort Tricia, Jeff was trying to fill her mind with thoughts of hope she did not yet have--with thoughts of a Savior she did not yet know.

Tricia pulled away from Jeff and put her arms around me, thanking me for talking to her as she hugged me. She then put her arms around Marissa and held her tight.

When Tricia let go of Marissa, I told her that I would be praying for her.

Jeff and Tricia walked back to their car.

"Let's go home." I said to Marissa.

"Are you all right?" She asked.

"Not really."

Tricia served two large cities for sixteen years, probably giving more than a person should have to give to a community. It broke her. It broke her spirit. It broke her heart. And it left emotional and physical scars that only the Great Physician can heal.

Marissa and I walked back to our car. We spent some time in prayer for Tricia, before heading home. Marissa held my hand most of the way home.

Please join me in praying for Tricia's physical and emotional healing. Pray also that the Lord, by His sovereign grace and mercy, will save Tricia's soul.

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