Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Meet Lauren.

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’" Matthew 25:31-40

Meet Lauren. 
Lauren and I met this morning. She probably doesn't even remember my name. She was stumbling and walking in the middle of a pretty busy intersection wearing a pair of boxers, a tshirt, and flip-flops. Lauren was running her fingers through her greasy, sunset hair, talking to herself (she later told me she was praying), indicating to me that she was crying out for help.

Meet me. I am Melissa and I often feel compelled to stop and 'get' the Laurens of the world. I don't want to be a goat. I want to be a sheep. 
You should also know that I am in my gym clothes. Bless.

<Before anyone wants to judge my parenting: I had taken Mark to work, my girls were not with me. They were still sleeping, safely bolt-locked in our hotel room, which was in my sights.>

I spotted her. Immediately I began to mumble some gibberish to Jesus, I have no idea what I even prayed. Then, I made the U-turn I have made so many times in these situations. I need to put a Caution sticker on my car:
Will make U-Turns with No Warning When Intoxicated, 
Underdressed Girls Obviously Need Jesus.
Seems reasonable, right?

I pulled into the gas station, and walk over to her at the corner. I also sent this text to Spouse: Girl on road. Drunk or something. At *street* and *street* convenient store. Stopping.

"Hey, Sister. What are you doing? Where are you going?"
"I don't knowwwww. I need to go somewhereeee. I need to go over there." (Points across the interstate.)
"Who is over there? Where are your clothes? What's your name?"
"My friends and my mom are over there."
"What's your name?"
"Lauren. I'm Melissa. Do you know why I'm here?"
"No. I mean, I was praying. I pray. I've been praying for somebody to help me and take me but I don't want to do anything with them people that stopped. I don't want to be a girlfriend. I don't know. Who are you?"
"Lauren. You prayed and I showed up. I saw you walking on the road and Jesus sent me."
"I know Jesus. I need to get out of here."
"Yes, you do. And, If you want help, I will help you."

Bless. About this time, I'm looking up the number of my local, Jesus-loving friend, Jeff, because, let's not forget that I am in Arlington freaking Texas and I don't know my way around this hood! I need backup. Poor Jeff. 

Meanwhile, we've been standing there for a few minutes and she tells me this old guy over at the store was going to give her a cigarette. She got one from him and he asks me if I was OK. Dude. I'd be doin' a whole lot better if you'd just take it on down the road and let me get this girl away from the likes of you!
He seems to be as nervous about me as I am about him and he takes off. 

Then another guy walks up. He is sketchy as can be, too, he is overtly polite, telling me it is a wonderful thing that I am there to help Lauren. This makes me more nervous and I pray him away, too. 

Just know that this whole time, I am sure to stand in the widest, openest place possible in this parking lot. It is a gas station. People are everywhere, looking at us. But, no one stops. They are just a buncha dad-gum lookie-loos. Blech.

Anyway--Jeff, in all his greatness, answered the phone. He used his resources to get me a number of a woman's shelter. Lauren says it's ok if I call them. I called a shelter, who sent me to someone else. 
Throughout all of this, Lauren and I are just talking. She isn't making much of sense, and I was just praying the Holy Spirit was on my lips and changing my words so that she could comprehend. I was talking straight to her. 

"No way. I'm not taking you to your friends house. You just told me they always take your stuff. They sound sketchy and I'm not doing it. Look at my face. Do I look like I'm gonna take your stuff? I have my own stuff. You prayed and I showed up. If you want me to help you, I will help you, but it is not helping you to take you to sketchy people. What do you want to do?"
I vacillated between a desire to pop her upside her head and put her in my car and just hugging her while she babbled. I was surprised she even let me hug her.  

Birth Certificate.
"I can't go to a shelter. They won't take me. I don't have ID. I only have a birth certificate."
"You have a birth certificate with you?"
"Yah. I keep it here, in my bra."
She pulled out of her bra a small, brown paper towel reminiscent of a middle school bathroom, soft from time and excessive folding. As she unraveled this paper towel, I thought "This chick is crazy. That is not a birth certificate. Did she just write her birthday on a paper towel and she is so far gone she is calling it her birth certificate?"

She unfolded that paper towel to reveal her birth certificate. She was born in April 1992. She is 20. Lauren does not have her sense about her enough to complete a coherent thought, yet somehow, she knows that birth certificate is so important that she tucks it away in her bra. Not in her purse, lest it get stolen. She had it almost underneath her armpit. 
"My grandma will kill me if I lose this."
"I'm not gonna take it, Lauren. I just want to see it. I love that you are smart enough to keep you birth certificate hidden, that says a lot about you."

She smiles at me and I tell her that the One who made her knows all the details about her and He made her perfectly. 

"Yah. Yah. I know. God didn't make me like this."

"He loves you like this." I hug her.

"I know. I gotta go. I can't go to that one shelter."
"This is the only ID you have? The shelters make you have ID?" 
"Yah. And they kick me out cause they say I'm too far gone. Even the God rehab place kicked me out. They said I am too far gone to help me."
"The God rehab?"
"Yah, the one with the Jesus people. They can't even help me."
"I will help you. I know people that can help you. What do you want to do? I'm not going to stand out here all day, Lauren. You decide, Sister. I'm here and I'm not sketchy."
She kept grabbing at her stomach. I asked her if she was hungry.
"No. I'm not hungry. I need to go back to school."
"YES!! Yes! That's what I'm talking about! I can get you with some people to get you to school! It won't be tomorrow, but we can do it. In Jesus' name, I will help you. "
"I need to go to my mom's. She is over there." Pointing again.
"I'm not taking you there. You told me there are sketchy people in and out and they take your stuff and want you to do stuff. I'm not taking you there."
"I just need to go to my moms. She has to know what I'm doing. She knows those shelters, my sister went there."
"Your sister didn't have me to take her there. You do."
She laughs and tells me I'm crazy. No kiddin'.
She let me pray a short prayer over her, but when I was finished, I could tell she was even more nervous.

Success or Fail?
Somewhere in the course of all this I called the other shelter and didn't get anyone on the phone. I got Jeff back on the phone really quickly, because Lauren had started mumbling to herself walking away. I wanted to check in with him really quick. She came back over and started sort of freaking out. Each time I made a call, her anxiety level heightened. She said something about not taking her medication (people keep stealing it) and not wanting anyone to help her because they always want her to 'do stuff' and they take her stuff. She told me at one point she was having a panic attack and that if she has a panic attack, her mom will have a heart attack and they will both die. She was so afraid I was calling the cops on her. I don't even remember all of the conversation. Once again, I found myself feeling like I was in the spin-cycle. 

She started speed talking, saying she had to go. She walked off to the intersection again, and another friend in the Dallas area called. I quickly let her know what was going on, again, I'm thinking the more people that know where I am and what I'm doing, the better.

I could sense at this point that Lauren was leaving. She is grown. I gave her the piece of paper with all the phone numbers that my calls had gotten me. 
I watched her as she walked away, looking like a crazy person from a movie. Talking to me from under the overpass, yelling across 3 lanes of traffic. I have no clue what she was saying.
I was torn. I couldn't go chasin' her down. (The children!) 
I had Jeff on the phone, telling him I am tempted to feel like a failure, but I know better.
Jeff told me what I already know: 
Success or failure is not dependent upon her response, only mine.

She's gone.
I have no idea where Lauren is right now.

I left a little bit of me in that gas station parking lot.


  1. YOU ARE AN AMAZING WOMAN AND I AM SO PROUD TO CALL YOU FRIEND. You have me in tears of shame right now because I am pretty sure I would have been a "goat." I love you.

    1. Thank you, Debbie, for constant encouragement!

  2. Everything really is BIGGER in Texas! Love your that you're dangerous! Hate that sometimes you have to leave your guts on a parking lot. Love that you loved enough to risk rejection. Love that you loved her enough to let her reject. Love that we can pray with you for her :)

  3. I love you dear friend and your crazy U-turns. Thank you for caring for Lauren. Speaking the truth in Love is sometimes her/their opportunity that God gives to them to reach out. ((hugs))