The sudden interruption of a ringing phone startled me out of a deep sleep, and Rachelle’s voice at the other end sounded hysterical and full of fear. A stranger was outside her house banging on windows and calling out unintelligible words. Feeling defenseless, she pleaded that I come quickly to help. My heart froze. Driving into Rachelle’s neighborhood after dark could open the door for more trouble, and what could a weak woman like me possibly do to secure safety next to a stalker strung out on drugs? I knew better than to drive into the area at night. My friend can’t stay alone, my heart reasoned, she is unprotected and frightened beyond description.
Powerless to make a difference in her situation, I told Rachelle she needed the police at her complex, not me. I secretly wished I was fearless in the face of danger, and that driving into a drug-infested complex in the wee hours to help a single mother in need was my normal routine practice, but I knew stepping into a perpetrator’s path was not an option and urged her to call for help.
The stranger eventually left, and as we lingered on the phone, my young friend sobbed as the walls erected around her heart came crashing down, giving way to the avalanche of emotions that comes from the burden of unemployment, raising children from three different fathers, and straining to get back into a right relationship with Jesus. Her heart longed to reach a place where she could feel dignity and a sense of purpose.
I loved Rachelle. Our friendship had one rule: come as you are. It pushed open the doorways of our two worlds, creating an entryway into each other’s spiritual longing to become more of the person God created us to be. Vulnerable conversations defined the heartbeat of our relationship, and we quickly learned that exposing our weaknesses served as opportunities for the Holy Spirit to settle in and teach us a few things about ourselves.
I met Rachelle after she started attending our church, and her faith began to grow in the spiritual climate of worship, prayer, and bible teaching. We attended a tent meeting together on the front lawn of our church and sang our hearts out to God in praise for his intimate presence in our lives. It was there she made a fresh commitment to Christ, promising to trust him even when her circumstances looked bleak. The incident with the stalker served as a turning point for Rachelle to stretch her faith to new levels and toughen up her resolve to live for Jesus the best she could. She soon found employment and our schedules no longer allowed time together.
One night I received a phone call from Rachelle and learned she was pregnant again, leaving mountains of consequences in its wake. Full of self-disdain and weeping from shame, she confessed to giving in to a man who gave her the appearance of a secure relationship. My heart broke for her. The weight of insecurity trapped her all over again. All I could do was remind her that God’s feelings for her hadn’t changed – he is still the same God who forgives and restores – and to never forget that.
Rachelle moved out of her neighborhood and we lost touch. I thought of her often, partly because of the special friendship we shared, but mostly because I saw my friend’s best intentions for getting right with God derail, and questioned God why it’s so easy for us to sin when our hearts are committed to following him. We call our sins flaws, shortcomings, weaknesses, or imperfections, but it is bad choices that cause breaks in our relationships, bringing with them damages we inflict upon ourselves.
Guilt and nullifying God’s word are two weapons the devil will use against a repentant sinner, and he will wear us out trying to brainwash us into believing it is God who condemns and his grace will never remove the stain of sin. I asked God to give Rachelle a revelation of his love and prayed she would embrace the power of his forgiveness in her life as she attempted to put back the broken pieces in her past and move forward.
The words from Psalm 18:16-19 are healing: “He reached down from on high and took hold of me; he drew me out of deep waters. He rescued me from my powerful enemy, from my foes, who were too strong for me. They confronted me on the day of my disaster, but the Lord was my support. He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me.” God is faithful and gives us a second, third, and fourth chance. This I know to be true.
My name is Anne O’Donnell – I am married with four children and three grandchildren. I have always been a creative person, and enjoy the challenge of writing on a variety of topics in a variety of genres. I love Jesus, and I welcome the opportunity to be a part of this community.