black iron gates

Sometimes, when God really wants to get my attention, He wakes me up in the middle of the night. I stare at the ivory trey ceiling, moonlight spilling in through the blinds and I know that it’s God. The clarity of the moment says, “listen”.

That happened the other night, after I visited the shelter where the black iron gates kept women and children from harm from their loved ones.

On that day, I sat quietly in my car afterwards, my world just a little larger than it had been a few moments earlier.

When I write, or when I speak, there will be women in the audience who are experiencing something so hard and so painful, that trite words or a formula or a canned speech or book only serves to cause them additional pain.

My visit to the shelter was a reminder of that.

And also a reminder of a conference a few years earlier. I was one of many workshop speakers, and then there were the keynoters–the women who spoke to the audience of thousands. I was standing in my booth when I heard a woman stop one of the speakers.

She was hesitant, standing there with her long dark hair, her Ugg-like boots, and a Bohemian skirt. “My husband and I are struggling,” she whispered.

I closed my eyes in pain when I heard the speaker’s response. She looked the woman up and down and patted her on the shoulder. “Shave your legs, sweetheart. Dress nice for your husband. Put on a little makeup.”

The speaker, immaculate in her cloned NYJones suit and matching shoes, gave her a quick hug and walked away.

The woman stood in the center of the massive conference center, stricken.

She was handed trite advice without any knowledge of the problem. Maybe the challenge was intimacy. Maybe it was spiritual. Maybe he was cheating. Or maybe she was just a tired mom of four who needed a break. But shaving your legs and throwing on some lipstick doesn’t even begin to cover most issues, much less a serious one.

How do we get to that place; where we fail to listen, where we think we are Methuselah, all wise, all knowing? Dear God, please don’t let me fall into that trap. Don’t let my world get so shallow and so isolated that I believe that the world is one rosy place, beautiful and unfettered, making my life or my perspective the total lens through which I peer.

It’s another set of black iron gates, where we are so shut in our own world that we forget what’s on the other side.

Those were the things running through my brain the other night. Waking from a peaceful slumber to a conversation with an all-knowing God. But it was more than just a conversation, because that’s the way God operates. It was a call to action.

My world is too small, and I have to do something about that. I have plans, but just need some prayer time to make sure I’m taking the right step in the right direction.

Deep down, I know it is.


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  3. Ugh, how incredibly insensitive! My heart just breaks for the woman who received that “free advice” – then I wonder, gosh, how many times have I said something similarly insensitive to someone who is hurting… and I wince again…

  4. I agree, Sharon. Listening is a powerful tool. If we don’t and just hand out a quick fix without knowing what is going on, we may leave more damage behind than good.

  5. Having worked in difficult situations, my heart winced with you regarding the insensitive remark.
    Sometimes the best thing is to share and empathize with the suffering. That is hard because it means we suffer with them and we don’t like to do that. Yet that kind of sharing, compassion and empathy brings healing. Sharing without attempting to “fix” the problem also can surface questions and issues of our own.
    Good for you for being willing to have your world expanded, to pause and ponder the deeper things.

  6. Me too Suzie… I just read one blog post before yours and both confirm this very thing to me. God needs us! We need Him. We have work to do! I’ll be in prayer. Praise You Father God, in Jesus’ name.

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