It was an unusually cold night, that night in San Jose. As we drove around the city serving coffee and cookies in the red light districts, I spotted her. Even from a distance, in the dark-I saw her determined jaw. She and I had settled into sort of a routine-each week I offered her coffee and cookies, each week she refused. However, with every refusal, her eyes would betray her words.
This particularly cold night, I approached her corner and found her sitting on a stoop near the street alone. I asked her if I could sit next to her and she nodded. We sat in silence for one whole minute. The lines in her face made her look angry but I saw she wasn’t angry-she was sad. I waited for her to speak. I was nervous and praying my Spanish wouldn’t fail me. Finally, she peered sideways at me, “Girl, do you know what I do? Do you know why I am out here?” I replied, “Yes, I do know why you are here. Do you know why I am here?”
She shook her head no and waited for my explanation. I opened my mouth to give a little synopsis of why I come to the streets but something stopped me. I saw deep within her eyes she held shame. She was waiting for me to say I was a Christian. She was waiting for me to tell her Jesus wanted different for her life. While both of those are true, her context would take these two truths as condemnation. In that moment, I was overcome with love for her. I genuinely wanted to be her friend.
So the words came out, ” I just really want to be your friend.”
She peered at me suspiciously-“I don’t have friends.” I smiled back and didn’t reply. It was the beginning of an unlikely friendship. She would often speak of desiring to leave the streets but how fear would hold her back. I would just sit in those spaces with her and pray with her. We talked about our families and got to learn much about each other. She taught me new Spanish words and I would teach her words in English.
One day she found the courage to leave the streets and make peace with her family. When we hugged goodbye, she shared with me how she was excited to go home and how she was starting to actually believe Jesus was real and loved her more than she realized.
We lost touch but every time I passed her old corner, I smiled to myself. Jesus taught me much through this friend. She was strong and her compassion for others was convicting.
I thought she needed a friend but really, I needed a friend. And so often I would picture him just singing over my friends on the streets.
Jesus softens hearts, the hardest of hearts, by His unrelenting love.
He makes crooked, awkward, and unforgiving paths become straight.
He turns the seemingly impossible into possible. Enemies become friends. Dark becomes light. Hopelessness transforms to hope. All because of the love of Jesus.
The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.
– Zephaniah 3:17
Jesus thank you for the love you give without hesitation and thank you for all of the ways you sing over us.