“I don’t wanna be here I don’t wanna be here I don’t wanna be here.” Thus the refrain running through my head as I sat in church this past Sunday. I didn’t walk in with this feeling of geographic discontent, but it hit pretty quickly and just kept growing - I was suddenly and irretrievably peopled-out. I kept imagining a me-sized box sliding down over my head, barricading me from everyone else. I might have tried escape, but I was hemmed in on both sides by people at the ends of the pew. I closed my eyes, working on the toddler-worthy assumption that “if I can’t see you then you can’t see me,” and wished the world away.
When I opened my eyes again, I saw a woman in the pew in front of me - a visitor, I knew, since she had introduced herself during the welcome. And she was crying. This is not as outlandish as it may seem, since this was a service about healing physical and emotional wounds, but there she sat, this stranger, crying.
“Go to her,” I heard in my head. Ignoring that with some alacrity, I promptly closed my eyes again.
“Go to her,” I heard again, and this time I gave fight to whatever part of my better nature was prompting me: “She doesn’t know me from Adam, she doesn’t want some stranger hanging around her when she’s feeling vulnerable, she’s probably craving solitude right now just as much as I am.” Eyes still closed.
“Go to her,” reaffirmed the obnoxiously placid yet insistent voice, heeding my objections not at all.
I crept out of my pew, sat down beside the crying woman I didn’t know, and after checking with her to see if it was okay, put my arms around her. And I just sat with her as she cried. Eventually she started telling me of her sorrow, and eventually I found myself crying with her, and there I sat for the rest of the service.
She was visiting from out of town and I’m not likely to see her again. I have no way of knowing if I ministered to this woman or not, but I do know that she ministered to me. In sitting for just that moment with her sorrows and brokenness, I was called for just that moment to recognize and let go of mine. By sitting with a crying stranger, I felt the touch of healing.