She was neither very young nor very old. She’d come looking for help. When I met her in the gathering space at church she was trembling and on the verge of tears. Abused by the man she had been living with, she had finally found the courage to run away and friends had taken her in. She had even found a job and a place to live. But she wouldn’t be getting a paycheck until later in the week and her landlord was demanding the money up front or she would be back on the street, vulnerable and alone. We talked, and years of experience told me that what she was telling me was true. I held her and assured her that we would help in any way we could. And she finally stopped trembling.
Spring came early in our part of the country this year. The grass is green, flowers are blooming and a mama cardinal is sitting on her nest in the forsythia bush just outside my window. Tiny green leaves are unfolding on my hostas and the trees are turning green right before my eyes. But winter has not left my garden untouched. There are dead things, too, and not all my plants have survived the cold. The seeds of new life are sometimes planted very deep.
Two disciples were walking on the road to Emmaus. A stranger joined them, but they did not recognize him. He asked what they were talking about and they shared their winter story of disappointment and fear. Then they invited him to stay and eat with them. Later, they “recounted what had taken place on the way, and how Jesus was made known to them in the breaking of bread.”
The woman was afraid. Her winter journey had been filled with pain and disappointment. But the seeds of new life were stirring in her and she trusted that spring was coming. I invited her in and listened to her story. I learned her name. I thought I knew who she was. But it wasn’t until she had gone that I recognized her.
Van Benthem is a longtime pastoral minister in the Diocese of Green Bay.