I am one of the suburbanites of history, poised on the edge of the city that is Humanity.
I am one of those who wade out into the world as much as is necessary to get what is desired. A paycheck. A taste of culture. The thrill of adventure. A gorged appetite. An eased conscience.
We do this because we are afraid and, even more disturbing, we are indifferent.
But it is difficult to suppress that burning love of the Lion of Judah for the injured and ill when they lie before you, suffocating beneath sin, the world, and the devil, and the gasps are audible.
We had one such encounter today.
We helped with a session of their “Kid’s Club” (what is called Vacation Bible School in the States) and had the privilege of spending time with their on-staff evangelist (that’s right, someone the church pays to focus on the work of evangelism – novel thought), Andrew Gordon. Andrew’s sense of humor and deep passion for our Lord immediately won us over. It was clear we were members of the same family.
Before Kid’s Club started, we made what we thought would be a brief outing to pick up some supplies for one of our presentations. As we neared the entrance, we noticed two or three people standing around a woman in her mid-twenties who was sitting on the curb. She was wearing jeans and a tank top, and her dreadlocks reached down to the small of her back. And her face was bleeding.
Unsure of what was going on, we purchased our supplies and returned to the scene to find a man frantically calling for an ambulance while simultaneously urging the young woman to remain seated, as she was bent double, straining to bring herself to a standing position. Incoherent and mumbling in whispers about needing to get home, it was clear she was almost completely oblivious to her surroundings.
Laura and I drew near to the girl, gently asking her to have a seat. I kept my arms raised around her for fear that she would fall. The man making the call (whom we later learned to be an off-duty firefighter) informed us that she had just face-planted into the asphalt a few minutes before, and he worried that she may have sustained a concussion. A glance at the girl’s face showed that the fall had not been slight. Her face was bleeding in several places, and the remains of a cracked tooth could be seen on a split in her lip.
We found the grocery bag she had dropped. It contained a full bottle of water, an empty bottle of vodka, and a few pence. She did not appear to have anything else with her, even ID. These could have very well been her only possessions.
In an attempt to calm her as she continued to feverishly request to be taken home, I offered her the nearby bottle of water. In a daze, she brought the bottle to her bloodied lips. She did not even notice the several strands of her dreadlocks that blocked her mouth, which I attempted to move aside.
The firefighter, a passing bus driver, and I were eventually able to bring her to a seated position. She could not sustain this posture for long, however, and soon slumped to the ground. The firefighter, with one ear still to his phone, insisted that she lie on her side and fought to keep her in some semblance of consciousness, persistently calling to her and gently slapping her cheek.
By this time, a small crowd surrounded us, pointing and gossiping and laughing, as this image-bearer of God neared death.
Bruises covered her arms, implying the sites of self-administered injections. This girl had done everything possible to hollow herself out, but, in an attempt to escape the storm, she had smashed herself against the rocks.
Eventually, a fire engine arrived with medical equipment, at which point my lioness of a wife ordered the gawking crowd to make way.
We left them behind at this point, returning to West Kilburn Baptist in a mild state of shock.
I am reminded of what John the Baptist’s pop, Zechariah, said,
“And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High;
for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways,
to give knowledge of salvation to his people
in the forgiveness of their sins,
because of the tender mercy of our God,
whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high
to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the way of peace.”
Tender mercy is what I felt, involuntarily, for that desperate soul. It was so intense, so alien, I knew that it had not originated with me. The indwelling Spirit rose up. Asking the Father for mercy became incredibly natural, like breathing. And He gave it.
What this woman was so obviously, most people on this planet are internally. There is one that would see them destroyed. There is Another who brings overwhelming, unstoppable life.