A woman lays on her side like one in deep sleep, her petite body curved to fit the narrow space in the toilet cubicle, her back pressed against the door.
“Hello . . .” Another woman, clad in black trousers and navy blouse, kneels outside the cubicle, her hand pressed against the door. “Can you hear me?” Her words echo off the walls of the ladies’ room.
There is no movement, no sound.
She turns to me. We exchange concerned glances. “I know First Aid,” she says.
“Oh.” I nod. “Good.” I see her reach under the door to find the woman’s pulse, all the while praying, God, what do you want me to do? Do I stay? Do I go?
His words from that morning sweep over my heart again. Bask and bless. Receive My love and let it overflow to those around you.
Bask and bless. I’d almost forgotten that directive in the hustle and busyness of the time since. My well-planned morning has been interrupted by one minor glitch after another. I’d arrived at the shopping centre later and a little wearier than I’d hoped.
But now I see there’s a different plan at play. God’s plan. In that plan I am exactly where I need to be, right on schedule. This is not a time to bustle on with my to-do list. It’s time to overflow.
The woman in blue tries once more. “Hello! Can you hear me?” She feels for a pulse, checks for breath. “She’s not breathing.” Her grim words hang in the space between us.
I step closer. “Do you mind if I pray?”
“No. Go ahead.” She moves aside.
I squat to reach under the door and place my hand on the woman’s back. “Lord, I thank you that you know this woman and you love her. I speak life over her now . . .”
“She’s not breathing.” Security guards have arrived and the first aider explains the woman’s condition. “Her pulse is very faint.” Her words fall like a wet blanket over my prayer, threatening to smother hope.
Quietly I finish then move into the next cubicle where I kneel. Leaning forward, I press my chest against my legs and hang my head till I can see the woman’s face. She’s wearing jeans, a cotton t-shirt and canvas shoes. Her hair is swept back in a simple ponytail. Her face, lined with the passing of years, is pale. Her eyes are closed.
Compassion fills my heart. I touch her hand, continue praying, and notice the muscles in her jaw beginning to work. “Her mouth is moving!”
Slowly she shifts her legs, tilts her head back and groans.
The team’s response is immediate. “We need to get her out of there.
A man climbs into the cubicle and helps us move the tiny figure out to an open area on the restroom floor.
“Where am I? What am I doing here?”
“You’re in the ladies’ room at the shopping centre.”
The woman is groggy and disoriented. Carefully we roll her onto her side and explain that help is coming. The guards leave and return later with a clean pillow and blanket. They tell us that, due to a misunderstanding, the ambulance has only just been called.
Time passes and the woman asks the same questions over and over. “Where am I? How did I get here? Who are you?” She seems surprised that strangers have chosen to stay with her, there on the floor. Her mind drifts back and forth from confusion to resistance, gratitude to fear. Unbidden, she pours out reflections on her life – tales of family tensions, illness, guilt and despair.
I am compelled to speak. Taking her slender hand in mine, I tell her of love – of Jesus who laid down His life so she can be forgiven – released from the heavy burden of guilt. I stroke wisps of hair back from the face of this one who could be my mother, telling her how precious and beautiful she is. My words are few and inadequacy plagues me as I offer them. Yet I wonder – how long is it since someone treated this dear one with tenderness? How long since she heard she was worth dying for?
Has anyone ever told her?
I don’t know if my words are received; she goes back to her questioning as soon as I finish. But I’m thankful to be there, glad my plan was interrupted. The love God has lavished on me is meant to be shared, not hoarded.
The woman grows tired, her eyes close and her breathing slows once more. The first aider persists determinedly, rousing her again and again until – at last – the ambulance arrives. The medics move in and I embrace the first aider and say goodbye.
I plod through the essential tasks on my list then, my mind drifting back over the events of the previous hour. I pray for the woman – that the love she was offered takes root in heart, bringing hope and security.
And I pray for myself, that my plans are never so rigid they can’t be interrupted.
The best moments in life are the ones my Father orchestrates.
“We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps.” Proverbs 16:9 (NLT)
“Always let Him lead you and He will clear the road for you to follow.” Proverbs 3:6 (CEV)