Saturday, March 23, 2013

The Co-ed in the Corner - a Story of Messy Faith

Picturesque implication of a stress free life . . . . 

Don’t let slicked up televangelists in designer clothes fool you when they tell you how easy faith is. Not everyone who embraces faith will live on Easy Street.

Some of us – we live in the trenches on the battlefield of faith. We live there every day. Trench warfare faith means putting one foot in front of the other and just doing the next thing.

It means clinging to faith when clinging no longer makes sense. We cling when clinging hurts and costs us something.  

When was the last time you ran and where? 
I’ve been in those trenches. In fact, if I could have run away today, I would have run all the way to New Mexico before I stopped running. It’s been that kinda week.

Today, I ran as far as I could which was all the way to the local deli. I had plans to batten down the hatches, lick my wounds, and ignore the world while I buried myself in words.

Life has been too untamed to corral this last month. So, words were overdue and ready to spill out of me onto my keyboard. I determined to ignore the world until I exhausted my cathartic words.

Little snatches of conversation floated onto my auditory radar screen but vanished into nothingness until I heard her voice.

Courtesy of/in loving memory of Christina Jones Hooker - on her birthday
“I hate it here. All I’ve done is stare at the walls today. I’m so bored.”

I looked up thinking she must be a local college student stuck on campus for spring break until she mentioned her Sergeant. Then, I listened closer even as I tried not to be an old stalker lady – the kind who talks to herself and collects bony cats.

I busied myself with my own business again until I realized her phone call was over. Our eyes met when I looked up at her.

“May I intrude and ask you a question?”

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
A shy smile didn’t cover the hesitation in her eyes. “Yes?”

“Are you in the military?” I asked even though I suspected she was fulfilling her two week National Guard assignment. She confirmed my assumption.

I could have never guessed she was a veteran of four years and has already served in Afghanistan. She was young enough to be my daughter. No older than my son, I was sure.

My heart broke with an ache I cannot describe. Conversation began to flow as I told her how much I appreciated her courage and thanked her for her sacrificial service.

In bits and snatches she told me about her plans and dreams. Those are changing as the military endures funding cuts. Disappointment shadowed her features. Life is not fair.  

We talked about her once-a-month commute of one-thousand miles. A transfer to a unit in her home state can’t come soon enough. Maybe then she can have the surgery to correct an injury she received in theater?

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
I hesitate and slowly stutter out the words, “Are you a person of faith?”  

She nods, “Somewhat. I believe everything happens for a reason, and people are put in your life for a reason.”

Tears begin to glisten at the corners of her eyes as she shrugs unsure of where to go from there.  

I think of all the folks bustling by as she sat huddled in the corner. To them, she had been just another co-ed killing time on a rainy Saturday.

I think of my plans to run away from life for just a few hours. All the time, what I was really doing was running to.

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
“A man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.” The words of Proverbs 16:9 echoed in my ears nearly drowning out her voice. 

This day had not really been about running away and writing at all.

Before I was ready, I knew life was moving her along to other places and people. 

“How,” I asked, “may I pray for you?”

She hesitated. I could see tears begin to glisten again. Was there something she was afraid to say? Did my request hit too close to home? Had I intruded too far and become the stalker I had feared I might seem?

The answer slipped from her lips along with a request of her own. “Could I . . . could I hug you?”  

I stood and met her halfway. I tried not to cling like a mother sending her child off to war, but boy was it hard. I whispered a promise that my prayers would follow her, and I asked her to stay in touch.

As she turned to pack away her things and head off to meet some friends, she turned back to me. “I’m so glad I met you. I’m really so glad.”

Then, mine were the tears that glistened. In a few seconds, she was gone. I might have wondered if she had ever really been there but for her email address recorded safely on my phone.

Despite my messy life and messy faith, God let me run away for just a little while because I was really running to the appointment he had ordained when he threw the stars in space.

And tonight, I have breathed a prayer just as I promised. Trench faith is amazing faith. Don’t be afraid to embrace it.

Courtesy B. Creasy - 2010
Hebrews 13:1-2 (NKJV)
Let brotherly love continue. Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained angels.

Ephesians 2:10 (NLT)
For we are God's masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.


  1. Way to live Love in Action Carol! May we all be on the lookout for those divinely planned opportunities to impact others for Christ. Thank you for sharing and for inspiring!

    1. In the light of today, I actually can't believe I was bold enough to reach out to her. I pray the difference will be an eternal one and that our visit will stay with her no matter where she goes from here.

  2. What a blessed opportunity that you took from the Lord! Thank you for sharing this, I pray more of us are attentive to the Spirit's moving us in ministering to others!

    1. It is so easy today to rush on about life and miss these moments, don't you think? I am so hopeful that this story will inspire others to do more than slow down and smell the roses.

  3. Powerful! Thank you for sharing this as I know there are others of us who can grasp the messy faith of which you so eloquently write. No doubt God had you two meet for one of His divine appointments! Blessings on you both!

    1. Messy faith is not a popular topic. The easy one where life is always good and all your dreams come true is so much more appealing. Who wants to remember that we are invited to share in the fellowship of Christ's sufferings and that we are told we will always have trouble in this life. I fear too many question the validity of their faith in the messy moments of life and hope my faith will inspire theirs. Thank you for your kind words.

  4. Wow. Absolutely amazing. I have tears in my eyes just reading this! Thank you for sharing this!


  5. wow just wow.. I sit here with tears in my eyes. When I grow up, I want to be just like you. Reaching out to others. You my dear lady, have the faith of a mountain. Even though your life is not what you thought it would be, God is using you during this time. I pray that I recognize an opportunity to show my faith and love of God, just like you did. When you email your new friend, please let her know others are praying for her.

  6. I will be sure and tell her, Joy, and I hope many will hold her close in their prayers. I am so thankful to have met her and hope she will remember me as long as I will remember her.

  7. Beautiful story, Carol Anne. I'm bet you have no idea how many lives you touch. Thanks for sharing your faith with her and us.

    1. It was my honor to share a few minutes with her and share those moments with you.

  8. Wow. Thank you for sharing that story, Carol Anne. It encourages all of us to obey when God nudges us. Without obedience, we never know how we can bless others, and be blessed in the process.

    Thank you for the reminder.