The stench caught my attention before the carcass caught my eye. Actually, the first glimpse on my path of death were of a gang of vultures, sitting alongside the makeshift dinner table of the road’s shoulder, devouring the hard-shelled carcass of an armadillo.
The smell so intense, I had to cover my nostrils with my sweat-covered STANKY shirt to provide momentary relief.
Does one ever get used to the smell of a body no longer alive?
I don’t believe so.
This brief altercation brought to my mind a moment years ago when I saw a deadly woman in my peripheral vision. No, she was not a ghost sneaking up on me from the other side of the grave–
She was a living, breathing person who occupied a seat in the row behind me at church one Wednesday evening.
By all appearances, she was alive–
She took in oxygen.
She clapped to the music, as words exited her mouth.
Fully alive. But, I wonder if that was only a technicality.
I saw death in the midst.
When I say this, I mean literal death. Her flesh was falling off. Her skin barely had hold to her body. So grotesque. Inwardly, I cringed, yet outwardly I forced my eyes from an obvious diversion from her sight by keeping focus on something, anything, so she wouldn’t be offended by my behavior.
So, I stared at her hands as they clapped. They seemed larger than normal as the pieces of skin flapped in the wind of her rhythm.
How on earth was she even alive? That, and why was no one else bothered by this sight?
As we took our seats after worship, I gazed forward, which gave my eyes momentary relief. But, my heart was haunted over her, and throughout the pastor’s message, I tossed about in my chair worried over her welfare.
After service one would wonder why I didn’t just turn around and embrace her with concerned dialog. Oh no. Instead I did a sort of plea bargain with God–that kind I offered when I really don’t want to do anything of the sort, yet, knowing I should do something, I throw out a sliver of a bargain with God in hope He allows me off the hook.
“If she looks my way God, I will talk to her.”
Luckily, she looked elsewhere, and I was officially off the hook.
Still, after I left, I couldn’t remove the picture engrained in my mind of her appearance.
And, because of my lackluster performance, my guilt-ridden gut began an authentic plea bargain with God–promising to sit with this injured soul the following week.
When Wednesday arrived, with determination in my step, I made my way toward the Worship Center. But, before I could enter, I was stopped by an attractive woman with whom I’m an acquaintance.
She plans to attend service, and asks if she can sit with me.
NO! I yell to myself. I am on a mission to help the woman who looks as if she is the aftermath of a landmine explosion.
But, outwardly, I accept the invitation to sit together.
Still, I scan the room looking for her whereabouts.
She is not there.
Bothered, I sit back and embrace the service.
Eyes closed at the onset of a prayer, I hear a slight whimper originate from the woman next to me, followed by rustling from her seat as she stands and makes her way to the altar.
I bend over as if engrossed in the deepest of prayers to avoid the quiet nudge within that STRONGLY suggests I get up and make my way next to her up at the altar.
“But, God, I don’t want to go up there.”
I sense deep within there will be no bargaining my way out of this one. So, I make my way to her side and slip my arm around her and draw her close. Tears stream down her face as I speak words to her I am not entirely sure what they are.
After a few minutes, we both make our way back to our seats, and after service, we depart our separate ways.
Sometimes what we see is not entirely accurate to the condition underneath the surface. Could it be God placed this “vision” of a deathly woman in my heart so my eyes and heart were open to the encounter of another woman who would stumble upon my path with the appearance of life, but was actually dying underneath the false physical exterior of beauty?
“God, please give us eyes to see the true heart condition of those in our vicinity who need you, and the heart to respond to them with love. “