The phone rings. The name on the screen is only familiar because she has tried before to reach me. I’ve never met her, but from the one message on my machine, I assume life is hard. I answer.
“Hi, this is Trudy.”
“Are you Trudy Metzger?”
She begins. “I need to talk to you. I’m having a hard time right now, you know…” Bit by bit the random pieces of her story tumble out, in no particular order. How she tells it is as broken as the story itself. Her children are the result of teen rape. They don’t know it. They only know that she was ‘young and foolish’. Her grandchildren know her, but they have no idea that she is related to them—they think she’s Mommy’s friend.
She tries to hide the pain, but her lost identity is killing her. She admits that she uses alcohol daily, to numb the pain. When the pain starts, she reaches for another bottle.
She laughs, an empty, broken, lonely laugh and then pauses before she asks, “Why am I telling you this? I don’t even want to think about it. I just want to forget everything. I really don’t care anymore. Don’t care if I don’t wake up tomorrow morning. You know…”
“Yes, I know.”
“No you don’t!”
“Yes, I know. I’ve been there. I’ve lost hope before. I know what it’s like.”
“You do? You have? You know?” She pauses again. “Is this really Trudy?”
“Yes. It is Trudy.”
“Why am I talking to you? Why would you care? I’m going to have another beer.”
“Have you been drinking tonight?” I don’t really need to ask.
“Yes, I’ve had a few.”
She isn’t plastered….yet. She’s at that interesting place between sober and drunk, where you blurt out anything, admit to anything and vacillate between emotions. I’m guessing that’s why she’s telling me her story—a story she says she’s only shared in part with a counsellor before.
She starts the conversation over, insisting we must have coffee—she wants to meet me. I agree that, if she is sober on a specific day, I will meet her and give her some resources to connect her to professionals who can help, if she’s willing.
She asks a few more questions and one of them brings up the topic of my faith. I explain to her that I am a Christian and I love Jesus more than anything in the world. She asks more questions and admits she longs for relationship with God but has no idea how to connect with Him or even how to pray.
“You can just talk to Him, just like you’re talking to me. Ask Him to be with you, to help you, to let you know He is there.”
“Bah!” she pauses again. “I can’t do that! I don’t know how!”
“But you called me and you don’t know me, but you’re talking to me. Do the same thing. Tell Him you don’t know who He is, you don’t understand how to connect with Him and ask Him to connect with you.”
“Bah!” She exclaims again, skeptically, “I can’t do that!”
Again she admits that she wants to but there’s a barrier. She just doesn’t know how. “I’ll just have another beer.” She begins to cry. “What am I going to do, Trudy? I don’t want this!”
“What do you want?” I ask.
“I don’t know. I don’t know what I want. I just don’t care anymore. I don’t care if I don’t wake up tomorrow morning.”
The demons in her mind torment her. Hopelessness—fear that nothing will ever change. Meaningless existence. An identity that is lost in the pain of the past.
“I think you want to be loved. You want to know that you matter. You want your life to have meaning and purpose. Am I right?”
“What do you think will give you that?”
“I don’t know.”
She says again that she wants to know God, to be ‘free’, but there’s a barrier. She can’t talk to Him. She knows He’s up there somewhere, but that’s it.
“Talk to Him just like you’re talking to me.” I am repeating myself now, sounding just like her, and I haven’t even had one beer.
We’re running in circles and I know I won’t change her world tonight. For tonight, my role is to listen, to encourage, and to offer resources that will help her.
“How do I talk to Him, Trudy? I don’t know how!”
“Tell Him what you’ve told me and ask Him to talk to you. In fact, say to Him, ‘Trudy said I can talk to you, just like I talked to her. So here I am,’ and then tell Him everything you just told me.”
“Okay. I’ll try.”
She thanks me for my time, apologizes for taking me away from my family,says she’s not going to have another beer tonight, but will try to talk to God instead. We agree to talk next week at a coffee shop–if she is sober when I call her–and I will take resources to her for places she can go for help. With that we end the call.
I remember the people who were there for me and my prayer is always that one day I will sit across from this woman in a coffee shop and see someone who is healed and whole. But that can’t be my inspiration or my driving force. The tragic reality is that only a small percentage of people will overcome past abuse and present addictions. Only a fraction will pursue the help they really need and those few are enough to make the effort worthwhile. Those who overcome the odds will look back and thank God for the moment when they discovered that they matter and found the courage to believe in a better future. One day they will speak with others who are trapped in the cycle of abuse and violence, depression or addictions, and they will offer hope.
One individual at a time, the ripples of grace will spread.
The Apostle Paul said, in 1 Corinthians 9:22, “21 To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. 23 I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.”
Like Paul, I choose to count success in obedience, not in numbers and percentages. And, like him, I try to ‘become all things to all people’. To the drunken, confused woman repeating herself, I repeat myself and communicate at her level. To the business woman, I speak as a business woman, and to the pastor, I speak as one called to spreading the gospel. My ministry is in connecting with people, ‘entering in’ to their world, in hopes that some will find freedom. Whether I see results in one life, or a million, is not the issue. If I have done what I am called by God to do, then I have lived a full and successful life, and the ripple effect will not be lost to Him.