It was after dark and I was unnerved. The campground wasn’t quite what I expected and I wondered what it looked like in the daylight. Not knowing what else to do, I checked in. The young woman, probably an older teenager, checking me in had dead flat eyes, long unkempt brown hair, tight jeans, and a tongue ring. She would have been pretty if her face hadn’t showed a hardness beyond her young years. She had no other customers so I decided to make small talk. “Are you from around here?” I asked.
“Yep, lived here all my life,” she remarked with her tongue ring rolling in and out of her mouth. I suspected she wasn’t all that comfortable with it because she couldn’t leave it alone.
“Do you like it here?” I questioned, trying not to stare at the tongue ring.
“Not much but what you gonna do? Where you from?”
“Well, I’m from Jacksonville, Florida but I’m not there much. I’m a writer. I travel the country talking to people and writing their stories.” I’m always surprised at how I introduce myself to people. I just trust that God will give me the right words because there are many ways to explain what I’m doing.
“So what do you write about?’ she asked with interest showing in her eyes for the first time. That must have been the right introduction. Thank you, God.
“I’m a Christian and I write people’s spiritual stories. Everyone has one you know. They’re all different. What about you? I’ll bet yours is interesting.”
“Well, I’m not a Christian,” she warned.
“I’m sorry,” I responded sympathetically. I know responding sympathetically could be insulting but I always feel a stab of pain when people tell me they’re not a Christian. I’ve never been good at not expressing how I’m feeling. “Many people I meet aren’t. What do you believe? I’ve found that almost everyone believes in something.”
“I grew up Catholic but don’t go anymore. The closest way I can describe myself is that I’m into myself. If it isn’t about me, I’m not interested. I guess you could call my religion me-ism.”
“That must make it hard to maintain relationships,” I teased. “I don’t see a ring. Are you single?”
“Depends on what you mean by single,” she responded, clearly proud of her flip response.
She knew what I meant but I decided to play along. “I’m talking about a spouse or a significant other? Is there someone special in your life?”
“There are lots of someone specials. I don’t call myself single because there are so many men in my life that I never have time to be single.” She rolled that tongue ring again.
About that time, another customer walked up. The conversation was over too soon. She spoke with such bravado but I could feel her cynicism, pain, and loneliness. Someone had hurt her. I hated leaving it there. “Take my card and read my website,” I pleaded. “You might be surprised by what you read.”
“I will,” she promised. I walked back over later to try to continue the conversation but a group of her friends were there. I waited for a while but wasn’t able to get her alone. I listened to their banter about men, parties, and how drunk they had gotten. The next morning, she was gone. I never saw her again.
When I was talking with her, I felt like I was looking at a member of the walking dead. That young woman was someone’s daughter. At some point, she was an innocent child, hopefully, loved dearly. I wanted to tell her how beautiful she could be if she looked up to a God outside of herself. I longed to warn her that me-ism lead to spiritual and eventually physical death.
For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. NASU
I prayed, Oh Father, has anyone told her that those men she is involved with are not interested in her but are only interested taking advantage of what she offers? Send her a Christian who will model for her how much more to life there can be. Please show her that what she is seeking in me-ism can only be only be found in dying to self. Shine light on her life so she sees that she has choices. Send her people whose light is so bright that she can’t help but be drawn to it. The only thing left for me to do was to trust God with her.
"This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn't go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again. Anyone who trusts in him is acquitted; anyone who refuses to trust him has long since been under the death sentence without knowing it. And why? Because of that person's failure to believe in the one-of-a-kind Son of God when introduced to him.
"This is the crisis we're in: God-light streamed into the world, but men and women everywhere ran for the darkness. They went for the darkness because they were not really interested in pleasing God. Everyone who makes a practice of doing evil, addicted to denial and illusion, hates God-light and won't come near it, fearing a painful exposure. But anyone working and living in truth and reality welcomes God-light so the work can be seen for the God-work it is." (from THE MESSAGE: The Bible in Contemporary Language © 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson. All rights reserved.)
I don’t know her name but I can’t get her face out of my mind. She has consumed my prayer life. I pray she reads this website and swaps me-ism for the unconditional perfect love of Jesus Christ. I pray that one day her hardened face will glow with radiant God-light.