His story was sad - he was traveling to Maine for a new job when his wife, who was suffering from bipolar disorder and postpartum depression had left him in the hotel, taking their five sons and all his things and money. She had run away before, but usually ended up with family. This time she couldn't be found anywhere. He had a job waiting in Maine, but just needed to get there. It sounded almost too much of a tearjerker to be true, but we figured we could give him dinner and some gas. When he said he hadn't really eaten in four days, I started cooking up a storm, breaking out the leftovers. The children were ravenous enough, but our guest only nibbled a piece of toast because his stomach had shrunk from fasting and he could hardly eat. Life in a broken world just hurts.
I noticed he had a northern sounding accent and asked where he was from. It turned out he was from Michigan, had family in Traverse City where I was born and his dad had lived in Ludington where my dad grew up - he even recognized the name of the road where my grandparent's farm used to be. Not what I expected from someone picked up in Virginia. I love those small world moments, but the mood of the conversation was filled with sadness. Before we had picked him up, no one had given him any help and he had almost given up hope.
After he'd eaten a little he just sat at the table with tears streaming down because he said seeing our kids made him miss his kids even more. It being Father's Day just made it that much worse. He apologized for crying. Caleb passed him the tissues. I said "What else are you supposed to do? You're in distress. You're allowed to cry" He said that Psalm 6 had been the biggest comfort to him during these days as he pulled out his Gideon testament, and then put it back because he wouldn't be able to read it.
We sent him off with snacks and a full Bible and Pilgrim's Progress. He'd said his name was Jeremy, and I asked if he knew what his name meant. He didn't. Since I'd been looking at boy baby names lately, I knew, and said "It means 'God will uplift'. He hoped for that. After dinner, Caleb took him to the station and filled up his car with gas, and now we have a Jeremy and a missing wife Lindsey to pray for. We only have one side of the story, but we know there is a brokenness there that only God can mend and that God *can* mend.
There is a refreshment of soul that comes from ministering to strangers in need - especially when it is an opportunity rarely given. It feels like a gift somehow. It made our own little home stresses and troubles that had seemed so burdensome seem like a simply ideal life, before the real pain of a life deeply fractured. God's ways are mysterious, and I hope that in our zeal to do good, He granted us to actually do real good. I am so thankful that He can take our small lunch and multiply it in His grace for His purposes. Otherwise, what use would it be for any of us broken people to try to help other broken people?
O Lord, do not rebuke me in Your anger,
Nor chasten me in Your hot displeasure.
Have mercy on me, O Lord, for I am weak;
O Lord, heal me, for my bones are troubled.
My soul also is greatly troubled;
But You, O Lord—how long?
Return, O Lord, deliver me!
Oh, save me for Your mercies’ sake!
For in death there is no remembrance of You;
In the grave who will give You thanks?
I am weary with my groaning;
All night I make my bed swim;
I drench my couch with my tears.
My eye wastes away because of grief;
It grows old because of all my enemies.
Depart from me, all you workers of iniquity;
For the Lord has heard the voice of my weeping.
The Lord has heard my supplication;
The Lord will receive my prayer.
Let all my enemies be ashamed and greatly troubled;
Let them turn back and be ashamed suddenly.