Woman Seen from the Window of My Husband’s School

She stood out in the parking lot of the school, arms thrown wide to the sun, waving willow switches, and talking continuously with someone I could not see. It was clearly a conversation–she pointed and gestured toward the dumpster, looked back to see if she was comprehended, and waved her willows again.

Her hair was filthy, wild, pinned back randomly. Pendulous belly flesh hung over the waist of jeans meant for someone 30 years younger, dirty tank top not coming close to doing its job.

She paced back and forth in manic circles, waving her branches and arguing intently. Attention caught by something (someone?) in the fir trees by the dumpster, she strode to the trees. Talked to them for some time. Broke off twigs to nibble. Turned to scrub a nearby car with fir needles, then lie down on its hood.

A barrel containing a coffee can full of rain-soaked ashes and cigarette butts caught her eye. She turned the barrel on its side to pull the can out. Relishingly plunged her hands into the cigarette stew and kneaded it to black greasy paste. Pulled her hands from the can, blackened, and smeared the paste over arms and face, rubbing it in like sunscreen.

Then something in the dirt compelled her–she dropped to her hands and knees and began digging in the dirt, looking, looking… She jumped up. She flung out her arms to the sky once more, shouting to her unseen companion, turning this way and that to present her arguments.

As we drove away, she was tugging on a basketball standard, moving it, to get at the spot underneath for more digging, more looking. All the while, she continued her conversation, with….who?

An enemy, perhaps. A lion that prowls around, looking for someone to devour. A thief, who breaks in to steal sanity, kill hope, destroy life. Mental illness? Chemical abuse? The Legion of the Gerasenes? Hard to say, but something that seeks to obliterate the image, the fingerprint of God.

Lord, have mercy on that woman made in Your image. Were it not for Your enormous grace in my life, I could easily be living that life, tormented and wandering outside myself. Bring her to safe harbor, to You, to herself.

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