As I looked at the baby in my back seat, and his spiky fuschia pink mohawk, it occurred to me that when you decide to follow Jesus, it’s impossible to predict where you’ll end up.
It all started that Saturday morning, when a friend called while I was mopping the last of my egg yolks off my breakfast plate. I put her on speakerphone. I’ve learned the only way to not have my family ask me questions while I’m clearly attempting to listen to someone on the phone–which makes me feel stabby, and stabbing others is not exactly charitable– is to put every call on speakerphone.
“What are you doing?” she asked.
Sometimes, when people ask what you’re doing, they mean “I’m totally interested in hearing about your plans,” but most of the time, they actually mean “I kind of need you for something. How tough is it going to be for me to convince you to ditch whatever other plans you’ve got going on and do it?”
This was the latter.
As it turned out, I didn’t have any particular plans that day, and said so. “Well, I guess I’m going to a Pure Romance party,” my friend said.
I have lots of girlfriends who are totally comfortable with their sexuality. This friend is not one of them.
Before I knew it, my husband had volunteered me to go along with her. As the far more socially-astute half of our marriage, he picked up on the fact that my friend was nervously fishing for me to offer to come along. Or he might have been motivated by his own prurient interest in having his wife go to a “marital aids” party. Most likely? All of the above.
So somehow, I ended up attending the party at the home of someone I didn’t know with a friend who was 5000 times more uncomfortable being there. It occurred to me as I sat there, hearing an elementary school teacher waxing rhapsodic about the 50 Shades of Grey books, that Jesus calls you to weird places.
Because I had recently started speaking to Him regularly again, after a long break. And in my conversations with Him, I apologized for being a poor friend and neighbor, unwilling to walk alongside people in their struggles. So I promised that if anyone asked me to just be there for them, I would do that. I would just be there for them, in whatever messy situation they were dealing with, and not try to fix everything. Because me trying to fix other peoples’ lives works out about as well for me as it did for Emma Woodhouse.
And I knew, as soon as I heard the deep sigh of relief in my friend’s voice when Chris offered me up as a companion, that my friend needed me to be there for her at a Pure Romance party. Not to pry into the state of her marriage, unless she wanted to talk. But just to be there with her so her head would not explode from embarrassment. Which is what I did.
After the party, I left my friend’s house, sort of assuming Jesus was done with me for the day. That’s when I saw someone struggling with a big black something by the side of the road on my way home.
I was pretty sure it was some dude hitchhiking with a very large backpack, until I was sure it wasn’t.
It was a young woman, attempting to drag a baby in a car seat, balanced precariously on a stroller that wasn’t designed to carry a car seat, on the side of the very busy road. I looked at my gas gauge. It was low, but turning around wasn’t going to run me out. I turned around and headed back.
The girl was crying when I walked up to her, on the phone with someone else who clearly wasn’t happy about having to come rescue her.
“Need some help?”
Nodding. “Can you take me to [road that was on my way home]?”
“No problem. I’m going that way anyway.”
So she hangs up the phone, and I help her carry the stroller/carseat/baby/gear over the grass to my SUV. She puts the stuff in the back, and I put the baby in his carseat into the back seat. He’s wearing a spiky pink mohawk, and he’s shiny with sweat from the hot day. It occurs to me for the second time that day, that following Jesus can end up leading you to some very strange situations. Like staring at the bright blue eyes of a baby boy with a fuchsia mohawk.
Mom gets into the front seat and calls the rescuer again, and arranges a pickup. It takes just a minute to get to the church where she’s being picked up, but it would have been a long walk dragging everything she was trying to carry. There isn’t time to address all the invisible weight she’s carrying, and I wouldn’t even know where to start. But at least she wasn’t going to pass out from heat stroke.
Rescuer shows up a moment later, and baby, mom and gear are all transferred to his car. She thanks me profusely for the ride. I tell her it’s not a big deal; I was going to go right past here anyway. Which is true, but I was still a nervous wreck before I walked up to her.
I drive home, and it’s almost evening. Time to get ready for the one actual planned thing I had that day: a kid’s birthday party that our whole family was attending. They’d rented out an Elks Club swimming pool. As I floated on my back, I thought about my day: from eggs over easy, to living room sex education, to punk rock babies stranded on the side of the road.
And now I’m here: surrounded by kids screaming joyously as they whiz down the slide into the water over and over and over again. Parents whose day may included struggles I can scarcely imagine, or whose biggest struggle might have been getting their kids strapped into the car in their excitement. Packs of Twizzlers and Sour Patch Straws and bags of Cheetos. Kid Heaven.