The Ditch

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“…grieved at their hardness of heart…” (Mark 3:5b ESV)

My father in law’s famous breakfast was proving hard to resist, despite the cold and ungodly hour. It was too early to be on the road on a normal day, never mind Christmas. Still, it was just the two of us. Hopping into the car for a last minute trip was still painless in those days, and it would be nice to see the family. Without a sufficient argument to the contrary, we set out for my husband’s home town. The country roads were desolate — more so than usual. Surely we were the only ones crazy enough to be out at this hour.

No sooner had I finished the thought when, rounding a bend, we spotted another car. Only this car wasn’t moving; it was upended in a ditch.

“It looks like someone had a wreck last night.”

Or so I assumed – until a woman began to emerge from the hole in the ground. Drenched from the waist down, clutching her shoes and purse, she approached.

“Can we give you a ride?” Shaken and visibly anxious, she climbed into the backseat.

“She is going to kill me when she finds out about her new car.”

“Where can we take you?”

As she explained how to get to what I assumed was her home, I wondered how she got here. To this moment in time. To this ditch.

Lost in thought, I was unaware that the car had started moving again — until she shouted, ”WAIT!”

The car jerked, bringing everything to a halt, my thoughts and heartbeat included.

She had forgotten something.

What in the world could possibly motivate her to climb back down into that frigid water and twist her way back into that car?

She emerged a second time, small, white envelope in hand.

Settling a second time into the back seat, she turned her attention to what could not be left behind.

I braced myself for another stop. It never came. Whatever else was in that car could wait.

Explaining she had been given the envelope earlier that morning, she peered inside at its contents. Finding them dry and unharmed, her shoulders relaxed.

Reaching into the envelope, she removed one small photo and then another. Two children. Her children.

And then she handed them to me.

I was supposed to say something. “Your girls are beautiful” would have sufficed. But I was too stunned. An eternity passed. Hopefully it just seemed like an eternity. Lifting the photos to where my husband could see, I found my voice.

“Your girls are precious.”

And I would know.

Because I knew the little girls in the photographs. Their photos – the ones she had just produced from the envelope — were at home on my refrigerator. Their father, a childhood friend of my husband’s, gave me the photos days before.

I had heard about their mother, but our paths had never crossed.  Until now.

She tucked her children safely away.

“Thank you for the ride.”

As she disappeared through a door, I was gripped by sorrow. Deep, painful sobs shook my entire body. I didn’t know her. This sorrow could not possibly be mine. Yet, it was exceedingly personal.

Christmas morning I met a mother who loved and rescued her children as best she could given her state of brokenness. Her hands would have to settle, that day, for holding paper representations instead of their sweet, tender faces.

This life. It wasn’t the one she was created for.

And His Spirit grieved.

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