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Calling Janice

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The thought was there when I awoke. Even after school lunches were packed, breakfast served, and three kids kissed out the door, it lay in my mind like a stone. I sipped coffee, read a book, and tried to ignore it, but the weight of it increased.

Call Janice, the thought urged. I cleared the table and loaded the dishwasher instead. The thought persisted.

Connecting

Several weeks earlier, Janice joined a Bible class I attended. Her fearful eyes, seldom making contact, told the world she felt worthless and wary. I introduced myself, praying silently for Jesus to show me how to reach out to her. Janice’s wooden responses gave the impression she wished I’d go away.

Each week after Bible study, I approached Janice. It was hard work finding something to talk about. I kept trying because I sensed God leading me to be her friend, but she didn’t seem to warm up to me. I didn’t know then that Janice was a victim of horrific sexual abuse, that she’d been raised by a mentally ill parent, and that her husband made her life miserable in many ways.

In my kitchen that morning, I resisted the urge to call Janice, because I wasn’t looking forward to another one-sided conversation. Finally, I looked up her number and dialed.

When Janice answered, I said, “Hi. I was thinking about you today and wondered how you are.” I’d never before called, but she didn’t seem surprised to hear from me. The rest of the conversation was not memorable, lasting no more than five minutes. Her voice sounded warmer than when we’d talked at Bible study. Maybe the phone call was in her comfort zone.

A few days later, Janice surprised me by dropping by with a fresh batch of chocolate chip cookies. She stood at my door with the tray, her eyes meeting mine and a smile twitching nervously at the corners of her mouth. I found out she loved to read, and I sent her home with a stack of Christian books.

Books and cookies

Janice read all the books and returned them in a couple of weeks. I gave her more. Books about salvation experiences were her favorites. To keep our exchange going, I had to visit my local Christian bookstore often. Our friendship blossomed. Janice kept bringing cookies, and I kept giving books. I waited for an opportunity to give her a Bible.

One day, Janice said, “There was a prayer in one of those books you gave me. I thought it couldn’t do me any harm, so I prayed it.”

“What kind of prayer was it?”

“Something about giving your life to Jesus.”

That’s all she wanted to say about the prayer. If there was more, she’d tell it to me in her own time. A few days later, I gave her a paperback Bible and told her, “This is yours to keep. You don’t have to return it.” She stuffed it in the backpack she always carried. I wondered if she would read it.

Saving a life

During our visits over the following year, Janice told me about her horrifying childhood. She expanded her baking to include the best bread my family had ever tasted. One day, she pulled the Bible out of her backpack to show me she’d been reading it. The Bible was so well used, a giant elastic band was needed to hold its creased cover and loose pages together.

I opened the Bible and saw large portions of Scripture underlined. Whole sections were highlighted in yellow and some underscored in red. Hundreds of tiny notations crept around the margins. Some pages had little white space left.

“I’m so proud of you.” It was all I could say. She welcomed a hug once in a while, so I gave her one.

Halfway out the door, Janice turned back and said, “The cookies and bread are the only way I know to say thank you.”

“For what?”

“Do you remember the first time you called me?” I did.

“That day I had decided to kill myself. But for some reason, I decided to give God one more chance. I told Him if you phoned me, I’d know I shouldn’t do it.”

I learned much from my experience with Janice. Sometimes guidance from the Spirit lays in the mind like a stone until we obey. Then it rolls away and reveals resurrection life.

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