That shelf in my writing room wasn’t my first rescue. I’m a side-of-the-road girl – as in I’m always looking roadside to see what people don’t want anymore. I love garbage day. Your trash is my treasure and that abandoned shack with the broken windows and sunken porch on a lonely country road? That’s my dream home. Take a field trip with me around town; dare me to make something of any random roadside object, and I’ll answer you in spades. It’s not because I’m that creative. It’s because I get it.
Jesus found me roadside when I was 18. This is a strange thing to say in general, but it’s even stranger given the specifics. I was not a hobo at 18, but a middle class girl attending college. My parents had not kicked me to curb, but moved me to a dorm room. My mom made my bed before she left.
I was loved and supported. And I was very much roadside.
High school was fine on all of the obvious levels and a pit in all the unseen. College promised a fresh start. Maybe here, I could set the bar instead of always chasing and missing. I could be the smart girl or the pretty girl – I’d be happy with either. Maybe here, I could make friendships that wouldn’t end in a showdown or finally meet that guy who didn’t turn out like all the rest.
Three weeks dispelled these notions. I’d changed spaces, changed friends. I might have even changed names, thinking that if I asked people to call me “Elizabeth” I could change me. But I’m Beth and that girl … She’d look at you straight in the eye, but prefer you not look at her face. She’d say yes to everything and never get around to finishing anything. She’d be with you until she was done with you.
“Get in,” he said.
“But you aren’t real.”
I wasn’t going anywhere, so I got in. And I did what I do best. I doubted. You can’t possibly be real. I argued. You know you’re not real. I asked questions. Are you real? He answered every single one. I’d expected that; I’d experienced the religious one-liners before. But thoughtful answers? Reasoned responses? That was new. And so were his questions back to me.
Why can’t I be real? Who are you to know? But there are some things you do know, don’t you? You know you, and you know where you’re headed. I’m driving you there right now, but if you have a minute, I’d like to show you this other way.
I nodded, but I wouldn’t have if I’d known where he’d take me. It was a broad place, a high place. A place with a view to a different plain. It was unlike anyplace I’d ever been, and I couldn’t handle it. The sheer vastness threatened to swallow me whole any minute. But I knew it was the place I’d always been looking for.
Can I stay here?
What do I need to do?
Nothing comes for nothing.
This does, and it’s yours. But you can only get here through me.
I took it. You have to know, I took it. And you also have to know that when I say I believe in Jesus Christ, I’m not talking religion. Or a vote. Or a stance on an issue. Or a rule. Or a church on Sunday. Or anything other than that broad place that Jesus took me when he found me roadside at 18. Love, mercy, grace, freedom. In that order and for all time. For me. And for you.