Saturday as I was mowing the lawn, a young woman, somewhat disheveled and wearing very dark glasses, came walking up my driveway (we live in the countryside) and asked me if she could use my phone. She explained that someone was supposed to pick her up, but she was afraid that he had gotten lost. I got her the phone and as I took a closer look at her and caught phrases from the emotionally distraught message she left on someone’s voice mail, I began to form some idea of what kind of help this woman might need. After the phone call, I offered her some water and she said, “Do you have anything to eat?”
We exchanged a few more words and it became obvious that this was a desperate woman with no place to go and who was used to being abused by men.
I got her some food and set up a little table and chair in the shade outside (even though Bonnie was home, I did not feel safe inviting her inside–I think she felt safer outside too). She ate like a hungry person, explained that she had nowhere to go and had lost all her belongings (having left her backpack at some “guy’s” trailer), and she made a few more calls. Then she started crying, the angry crying of someone who is very angry with herself. I asked her if she wanted to talk about what was upsetting her. She said, “I’ll be okay. I just have to figure out how to stop piss’n people off. It’s really not fair to Randy, for him to spend his gas to come and get me when I have no place to go.”
I offered to help find her a shelter. She said that would be good because Randy might never show up.
I made a few calls and found a bed in a shelter in Langley, but just then a man in an old dump truck stopped in the street and she said, “I got to go.” She thanked me, confessed that she had looked into the freezer. She said she was jealous of all the food we had. I said, “God bless you.” She said, “God bless you, too.” And she walked out to the street and climbed into the dump truck and was gone. I forgot to ask her name.
Since then I have found myself thinking about this woman as the disciples thought about the blind man: “Who sinned, this woman or her parents or her society, that she is so terribly addicted, abandoned and abused.” In my mind, I worked through all of the arguments relating to human freedom and the affects of sin and the “perfect storm” of destruction that can be caused by combinations of inherited weaknesses, abuse, neglect, bad choices and addiction. I wanted to answer the questions, “Whose fault? Who sinned?”
Jesus answered his disciples, “Neither this man sinned nor his parents. But that the works of God might be made manifest…. While I am in the world, I am the Light of the world.” Then I began to see that whatever other factors have played into this miserable woman’s plight, my sin has not only contributed to it, but my sin also kept me from manifesting the works of God, from being enough Light to heal her blindness, to deliver her from her wretchedness. Jesus made clay with his spittle and healed the blind man, I reached into the empty chamber of my self-consumed heart and found only some left overs from breakfast and a telephone. Sure it is better than nothing. It is a little Light. It was enough Light to reveal to me that the only relevant answer to the question “Who sinned?” is “I sinned.”