Go Before Me
“God, are you there? I believe in you…I think. But then I start doubting. I want to believe,” she prayed one night as she laid on the bare concrete floor staring up the holes in the hut’s ceilings. She was alone as her friend Jane would be out all night on the streets, selling her body. She had wanted to go, too, but Jane told her no. “It’s a no good life for you,” Jane had said.
“Then why do you do it? You come back every morning with lots of money. How is that not a good life?” she asked her friend.
Jane shook her head no, “But there’s still hope for you. Don’t do what I do.”
With Jane gone, her loneliness felt oddly peaceful tonight. Her boyfriend was out of town and her friends refused to take her to the clubs anymore. “All you do is cry!” her friend spat her one night, having to leave the club early to tend to the outpouring of tears. “I’m not going with you dancing anymore. Do you hear? All you do is cry and I don’t get it!”
Neither did she. Every time she tried to go to the clubs and get drunk, she’d start to hear a voice in her head. It wasn’t an unfamiliar voice, it was one she knew too well; it was the voice of the one she called Mom, though they were of different skin colors and drastically different worlds. But the voice came unceasingly, pleadingly, “Stop what you’re doing! Come back. Why are you doing this? Think of your kids. You’re better than this. You know better.” And every time the voice came, it was as if her mom was yelling in her ears, begging her to leave the clubs, to return “home.” And every time, she cried.
The tears didn’t come tonight, though, as she lay in the still night. But her thoughts rampaged.
“Maybe I should go back to Mama Kate. Maybe she will forgive me… again.”
Ha, really? Again? Do you think she’s just going to keep forgiving you? Again and again?
“She’ll be so angry,” she muttered, placing her hand over her swelled belly.
And unforgiving. You can’t keep going back to her. You ruined it. She gave you one more shot already, and you ran away. How do you think she’s gonna feel seeing your pregnant AGAIN? She’s going to give up on you. In fact, she already has. That’s why she’s not here, right? Has she come after you since you left?
Her body shook with the poisonous thoughts. “That’s true. She hasn’t come after me like before. Why would she want to? How could anyone actually love me? I’ve done nothing but cause her stress. The last thing I want is to cause more stress.”
She loves you.
“Not anymore. I ruined it.”
She’s waiting for you.
“I can’t go back.”
All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.
“I don’t deserve it.”
True, you’d do her a favor if you just disappeared forever. Don’t go back. She’ll expose you for what you really are.
She’s sent by Me.
“I’m afraid. Oh, God, I’m so afraid. I want to go back, but I can’t. I can’t tell her I’m pregnant again. I can’t bear to see the disappointment in her eyes one more time. I can’t bear to feel her heart break and see her tears. I have to hide. Maybe I will wait until after I give birth…”
Now that’s a good idea! Better yet, don’t worry about the baby. Don’t keep the baby. Dump the baby in the river (since you stupidly decided not to abort it earlier) and then she’ll never know. No one has to know. You don’t have to worry. Just get rid of it all.
Indeed, it was a solution. It was a solution she had been thinking about since the moment she found out she was pregnant. But would it really solve anything?
“Oh, God, I don’t know what to do. If you’re there…if you’re listening, please… Please go before me. Please go before me and tell Mama Kate everything. Then, maybe then…I can return.”
* * * *
I flip shut the Joyce Meyer book, “Battlefield of the Mind” that Tenele and I are reading together. I look over at her, eyes shining, and I am struck by the beauty of God. I start laughing.
“What?” she tilts her head and frowns. When I can’t stop laughing, she giggles, too. “What’s so funny?”
“I’m just…” I pause for words. “So happy. Tenele, for the past seven years, I’ve been waiting for these moments.”
After God had told me plainly, “Stop holding Tenele’s past against her,” and after Hosea’s message of loving “newly” washed over me (see last blog), Tenele and I started over on a fresh slate. She moved into my extra room at the volunteer house and agreed to cook and clean as her way to work for rent. But the best part was on weekends when I stayed at the volunteer house to get a couple nights away from the girls home, and we did devotions together.
Tenele agrees with my joy. “To be truthful, Mom, I never thought we’d be spending time like this again,” she beams. But her smile quickly fades and eyes flash darkly as she looks out the window.
I stare at her, unsure of what thoughts are burdening her again. She rises and I catch a glimpse of her stomach. She had been wearing a sweatshirt for awhile, and now I see why. Somehow it makes me smile. I’ve always known she was pregnant. I had had a dream back in March and then Ayanda told me in June, but Ayanda thought maybe Tenele terminated the pregnancy. But now I can see she didn’t. And it makes me light up.
“You’re pregnant. When are you due?” the words spew as if they are not mine.
“What?” she flashes a glare my way. “No.” It’s what she says when she’s stubborn and doesn’t want to share, “No.”
“No, what? You’re obviously preggers,” I smile.
She meets my eyes questioningly. I see the pain. I see the clouds, I see the anger and the apprehension.
“It’s okay,” I keep smiling.
“No, I’m not pregnant,” she says angrily, as if to convince herself.
“Tbelle,” I laugh. “Come here.” I hug her. “You have a baby bump,” I gently touch her stomach. “And it’s beautiful.”
Finally, she smiles.
Later, she unloads everything. She tells me about her past seven months and how she went back and forth from believing in God and not believing. She asks me about hearing God’s voice because she says she asks to hear him but she never can. I explain that it’s an inner voice. Then she tells me, “The only voice I hear is yours.”
“What?” I laugh. “What do you mean?”
She explains her time at the clubs and getting drunk and how all she could hear was my voice repeating in her head, begging her to make good choices.
“Wow! Tenele, that’s God! He had to use my voice to get your attention because I am someone you know. He is using what you know to speak to you!”
As we continue talking, she reveals a few more things.
“I have never forgotten the message you sent me in March. You sent me a text about a dream you had that I was pregnant…” she pauses.
I nod. “Yes, I remember.”
“Well, I cried all day long after that. Because I was. I had just found out I was pregnant.”
“Wow,” I’m at a loss for words.
“And then, in June…” she continues, “You came to me and asked if I was pregnant. I told you no. But you said you didn’t want me to answer you only wanted to tell me something. And you did. You said, ‘No more abortions, Tenele, no more.’”
I nod. I remember that moment so clearly. I had been so angry at her but God’s peace thankfully got the better of me and He simply spoke a command through me. Apparently, Tenele listened.
“Mom, I had bought pills that morning. I was going to abort the baby that day,” she trails off, eyes glazing. “Oh, how I cried. I couldn’t stop all day. Because all I wanted was to get rid of the baby but I couldn’t, not after what you told me. I knew I couldn’t. So I threw the pills away.”
I was dumbfounded by the glory and Lord. He knows. Oh, how He knows.
“And then…” she smiles to herself, clearly in newfound awe, “I asked God if He was real,” she shook her head. “Now I know He is. I asked that if He was real, if He was listening, would he go before me to talk to you. I couldn’t tell you I was pregnant. For many reasons. So I asked God to tell you, to go before me…”
Tears pool in my eyes. “And He did. Wow… He did.”
Such a simple prayer. Such a powerful answer. Looking back I see that if I had acted on my own accord, my own emotion, my own frustration, my own weak “love,” I would not have welcomed Tenele back. I would have turned away not only her, but a second life (or a third if there really are twins in her belly as Lucia suggests).
“Lord, go before me.” How our world would change, if we prayed that every day.