As we sat on the concrete porch surrounded by a white fence and antique corbels, we sipped our Keurig coffee and ate homemade blueberry scones I had prepared the night before. She wiped a single tear from her mocha-colored cheek between yawns and said, “I’ve never known the love of God before.”
She was a freshman the year that I was a resident director (RD) at a small Christian college. The Lord was gracious to place her within the doors of our tiny little dorm, the little brick house on a hill overlooking the campus green. It was a quaint little building with creaky doors and major needs of updating, but it was the most charming little home to forty women. And I got to care for them for an entire year.
She stood out among them all. A daughter of Ethiopian immigrants whose life together was the result of an arranged marriage, she was a survivor of abuse and a brilliant woman in a field of all men (computer science). We spent hours that year wrapped up in blankets, sometimes weeping, sometimes laughing, and most times, just processing life within the confines of my cozy RD apartment. Slowly, she shared more and more of her story, and I got to simply hold all of it with her and let the Spirit cover it all.
I moved away one year later and never heard from her again.
She wasn’t the first and certainly hasn’t been and will not be the last woman that I’ve shared transformative moments within the precious spaces I get to call my office or my home. Even so, she is a face I will never forget.
Wasn’t it in the confines of homes or shared communal spaces that Jesus had his most memorable moments with people? I think of the time he healed Jairus’s daughter. He entered her family’s home, sent everyone away, and, behind closed doors, created life where there was literally only death. He called the little girl to arise—to wake up. He invited her to life again.
I wonder if it’s in those moments behind closed doors that we are called to arise, to wake up, and to experience new life again and again.
I’m not simply talking about just the ones needing healing, but also as the ones who share space where healing does happen. The moments I spent as an RD, and now a pastor, getting to sit in the spaces where people come to new realizations about the love of God are the ones that call me to arise from my own slumber. Those are the moments and seasons of life that Jesus invites me to wake up from my complacency, or laziness, or boredom to notice the presence of God, even in the painful realities of the people who sit on my couch.
So many people have come into my life since her, yet I will always long to know where she is or how she is doing. I don’t know what happened, and I will probably never know why I never heard from her, but I will always be thankful for the life that was awakened in me by sharing space with her for that year.
May I always remember and listen to the voice of God who calls from those moments. May I be forever changed because of them.
Haley Wiggers is passionate about discovering how the messy, painful, and unexpected gifts that come with being human connect and relate to and offer understanding of how God relates to and cares for us. She’s been married to her husband Tyson for 4.5 years, and together they just welcomed their first little into the world. His name is Theo, and he is the cutest. United by undeserved grace, they’ve created a life centered around table fellowship with others and long walks with their puppy.
I, too, sometimes wonder about people who came into my life for a brief period and then are gone. I pray for them, give thanks for how I was touched by them and then remind myself that they are in God’s hands, wherever they are.