It took three rings on the bell and five minutes of tap-taps on the front door before Katie cracked it open. She was in her bathrobe. I looked at my wristwatch and then back at her.
Katie swiped her bangs to the side and mumbled. “Look, Melissa, I know I said I’d go with ya tonight, but I’ve had this terrible headache all day…” Her words faltered when our eyes met. She knew I wasn’t buying it.
“Can I at least come inside so we can talk?”
Katie’s hesitancy was pointed, but I didn’t back down. She swung the door wide. “Sure.”
I knew Katie needed time. Time to recover from years of drug addiction, and to heal from abusive relationships.
I cleared a spot to sit down on her couch that was propped at one end with crushed beer cans. Katie’s descent onto it left me wondering how the other two legs had survived. I watched her, knowing my every word would affect her life. I was the only one building on her self esteem.
When Katie didn’t offer more explanation, I proceeded in my typical manner: lead with questions. Shut up and listen.
“Why don’t you want to come to the ladies fellowship?”
Her response came haltingly, and I could see traces of tears staining her cheeks. “I wanted to, Mel. I really did. When you led me to the Lord, I-I can’t even describe it. I felt so beautiful and at peace. I wanted to know all about everything. But when you took me to your church last Sunday, even cleaned up and with a dress on, I felt so dirty. Maybe not so much dirty, it’s just everyone there is so clean. I didn’t belong. But I was gonna go tonight until…”
The tumble of words stopped, and my prayer remained constant. Lord, she has come so far in only two weeks. Am I pushing too hard? Please help me to know the right way.
I told myself caution was key but I sensed this ice as solid enough to bear my weight. “Until what?”
Katie’s sigh still sounded like a hiss. She yanked on the sleeves of her robe, sliding them to her elbow. “I was getting dressed and look. How can I meet ladies at church with these?” Katie shook her head, brushing my face with her auburn locks. “You can see them from a mile away…“
I reached out and stroked the scars marring her arms. “What did you feel when you did this?”
Eyes on the shag carpet, she replied, “I don’t know. Just high.”
“What do you feel now when you see the needle tracks?”
“Ashamed. Worthless. Stupid.” Katie tugged the sleeves back in place.
“Do you know what I see? Sin forgiven. Mercy shown. Unconditional love pouring out on a child of God.” I reached out and drew Katie’s sleeve up again. “Heroine tracks-that’s what they were, Katie. But do you know what they are now?” I traced a bluish vain with my thumb. “Reminders of God’s grace.”
It would be three years before I was privileged to watch Katie give her testimony to a congregation of over five hundred. But the words she spoke made it seem as if only an instant had passed.
“She doesn’t care for recognition, but I could not tell the story of my salvation without talking about my sister, Melissa,” Katie began. “I’m so thankful for her tough love. She helped me realize some important truths in those first months after rehab. One of the best decisions I made was to move in with her. She said home would be the best place to start over.” Katie’s voice cracked and I looked away. There would be no chance of either of us making it through with eyes connected.
A moment passed before I could watch Katie drawing up the sleeves of the flower patterned shirt she wore. She continued. “I still have the scars of when I used drugs. I use to think they would be constant reminders of how it felt to get high. Now when I see them, I feel a rush of the presence of God and His grace. I’ve been on both sides. I’m here to testify as to which one is really…..the true high.”
Kleenex in hand, I dried the tears as they fell onto my own scarred arm.
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