The brush of her hand across my door had the impact of a moth’s wing on the wind. I sensed her before I heard her. Perhaps it was that Gentle Whisper to my spirit.
My eyes followed the pivot of my chin as I swiveled my office chair toward the door. I fixated on the shiny brass knob and willed it to betray the one who held it on the other side. It refused.
There was no appointment, but I knew. I could feel the raw intensity through the door without seeing the tears or glimpsing the pursed lips and wrinkled brow. Crelina had come.
I reflected on the past times she had materialized in my presence. Thirty-one. Alone in the world. Reeling. Panicked. Desperate. Paralyzed by fear.
The first time I had been confident. One year out of graduate school. A bonafide counselor ready to save the world from itself. My framed papers on the wall said so. My professors said so. My dad’s proud smile said so.
Then Crelina appeared. I didn’t see her name on my list but her body was in my office. I didn’t see any documented personal history on my papers but her words were pouring out all over me. Single-mom. Two abortions. One baby given up for adoption. One teen-age daughter. Out of control. Suicide attempts. Drugs. Alcohol. Runaway over and over. Gone.
The tsunami of trauma left me numb but I had the degree. Yes, I could help.
The numbness never left. Crelina was an onion unpeeling before me. Ritualized abuse. Borderline Personality Disorder. Hospitalizations. Lost family members. Incest. Rape. Divorce. Lost job after job. Financial disasters. Social service and court encounters. Lost faith. Abandoned by every friend she had ever known. Terror- filled.
By the fifth appointment I was the one terrified. By then I knew I couldn’t help anyone. No number of framed certificates were going to put Crelina together again. Humpty Dumpty was a snap in comparison. Proverbs, Beatitudes, Epistles, Psalms – they all began to feel like phrases from a language foreign to people like Crelina.
In those early weeks she began to call. Three. Four. Six times a day. Every decision needed guidance. Most situations left me feeling like my words were clouds over a desert. Full of empty hope. My pulse quickened. My sleep evaporated. My appetite quit.
By week seven I refused to answer my phone just in case it was her. I cried out to God for mercy. Send me someone easier. Conflict resolution. Self-image. Serial Killer. Anyone but Crelina.
I had pulled the onion apart like a chef preparing a salad. Now, I had no salad to cover up the destruction.
I waited in my chair. Anticipating. White-knuckled. Fighting fear and anger. Pride long gone.
My attempt to extend an invitation to “come in” sounded like a gagging kitten. My paralyzed arms sagged like helpless appendages to the digits clamped around the arms of my chair. The legs that once ran track melted like marshmallow in the heat of the moment. I began to focus on just one thing. “Breathe. Breathe. Breathe.”
As my chest began to rise and fall again the thought penetrated my mind. There is only one Savior and you are not him.
Crelina was sitting in the chair across from me. How did she do it? Houdini was an amateur. My heart double-dutched in place but the words still came. “There is only one Savior and he is not me.”
I could see the impact. The lips that were about to pronounce another melt-down clamped shut. The hands that knotted together in a constant flurry of pretzeling, froze. The eyes that burned with hatred flickered with question.
A minute passed. Two. Then. “Can you tell me who he is?”
That was a year ago. In twelve months Crelina has taught me so much about a Savior I took for granted through my shallow struggles. We have been spelunking in the deepest and darkest emotional caves and he has never left us. We have scaled the highest cliffs of human pain and he has belayed us safely back down again. We have faced the fiercest monsters of the enemy and he has been our knight.
Now I know she is here. I see what was once invisible. I hear what was once unsaid. Her knock is still a moth wing in the wind.
“Come in,” I call. The door swings open. A younger version of Crelina enters with mom.
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