Man, I thought I had it all figured out.
How could I think anything else? From the time I got saved, I’ve dreamed of all the things I’ve got now: a job as a youth pastor in a well-known church, my own house in the “right” neighborhood, an amazing set of wheels and the love of the woman I’ve prayed for my whole life.
Sarah is my “Proverbs 31” woman.
I met her in Bible school and suddenly the prayer I’ve been praying as long as I can remember had a face and a name. She’s a woman any Christian guy would want: strong faith, a wonderful personality, a beautiful face and a way with the Sunday school kids that assures me she’ll be a great mom to the kids we both want someday.
When my dad pointed out the 31st chapter of Proverbs to me, back when I first began dating, I agreed with him that it would be a tough bill to fill. But dad spoke from experience. Mom embodies those qualities pretty well, so I began to believe that God would bring me a similar woman. Every night for the past ten years I’ve read that chapter and prayed for my future wife. With Sarah, I was sure I’d found the answer to that prayer.
Sarah owns her own clothing design shop (another parallel with Proverbs 31) and gives ten percent of her clothes to the local rescue mission. Whenever she goes there, she does a Bible study with the ladies. When she asked me to go with her on her monthly trips, how could I say no?
I’ve seen the mission before: a ratty old building with a broken sign that now only blinks out “Res Miss” instead of its whole name. The long lines of people waiting for food and other help seemed similarly broken. I’m so proud of Sarah: she goes out of her way to bring her clothing to these unfortunate people. She puts her faith into action, just like Jesus said.
Last week, bored with just standing there as Sarah met with the ladies, I decided to join the servers on the food line. I tried to see past their desperate and hungry eyes to seek for the souls our Lord died for. Silently, as I took my place on the line I prayed, God would let me find the best way to bring His Word to each heart.
It wasn’t easy. Most of them looked at me with empty expressions and merely grunted or cursed when I mouthed a hearty “God bless you!” I prayed harder; surely God would help me find the key to reach them.
I saw her first from a distance. No one could miss her; she had an unspeakable word inked boldly on her forehead in bold red magic marker and similar words printed on her arms. She didn’t approach the food line or the Bible study. She stood, defiant, in the shadow of the door. No one approached her, even the other supplicants.
Something drew me closer to her. “Stay away, man,” urged the head counselor. “That one likes to be left alone.”
But I couldn’t.
As I drew closer, I began to see that the awful words on her skin weren’t drawn with solid lines. Each of the letters were formed out of intricate shapes, and when I got next to her I saw barely-visible scenery, water-painted inside the red borders of each letter.
”You’re an artist,” I blurted.
“What’s it to ya?” she snorted.
“There’s a free art class here on Mondays,” I told her. “You have a wonderful gift. It deserves to be seen.”
She snorted louder. “Can’t you read, Preacher Boy? I am what my words say I am.”
”Your words show me you’re an artist. Only you can decide if you want anyone else to know it.”
”Whatever, Preacher Boy. Not many people get close enough to see what’s inside those letters. You’ve done your good deed for the day. Now get lost.”
I stayed on the food line until Sarah was done. As I left the mission, with my arm absently draped across the shoulders of my Proverbs 31 woman, the artist’s bitter words stayed with me. I don’t know why I’d been compelled to seek what she’d hidden inside those words.
All I know is that tonight, I think I might read the book of Hosea.
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