By Jacqueline J. Holness
“I don’t know what to do,” she said, her voice nearly dissolving in muffled tears. The flow of cars surrounding me competed for my attention as I made my way into the confines of the city from the freedom of the expressway. A beat later, sniffles aside, she continued the phone call. “I can’t afford my children’s private school tuition anymore. I kept saying I would pay the bill, but now they won’t accept any more excuses. I’m trying to teach them at home, but I don’t know anything about homeschooling, plus I work. They’ve been at home for almost a month.”
My friend Leticia, a single mother of two, had been in my circle of six girlfriends for several years, but this was the first time she had shared something deeply personal with me one-on-one. I navigated the maze of a dark and dank downtown parking deck. Fulfilling my job as a reporter, I’d planned to park my car and dash into the courthouse across the street. But her desperate tone dictated that I listen to her instead.
As she explained the depth of her dilemma, I realized she was putting unnecessary pressure on herself to send her children to private school when the free public school in her district was a good one. I shared a bit of what I learned from a financial coach who had recently helped me, but I felt something more was required. And she even asked for it.
“Will you pray for me?” Leticia asked.
I paused. I wasn’t the only Christian in our circle, but I was the only pastor’s kid. And I had written about developing a personal relationship with God and about faith in a book and a blog. Yet I had never asked any of them about their relationship with God.
In my mind, telling my girlfriends about God was akin to exposing my underbelly. Yes, I’m being “made perfect” by Jesus (Hebrews 10:14), but among my weaknesses are being a worrywart who quotes Scriptures about not worrying as well as gossip and jealousy. It’s a reason, after graduating from college and rededicating my life to Christ, I attempted to create a group of Christian girlfriends. The goal was to encourage one another to live up to our Christian ideals without judgment, but these efforts failed. My father then advised me to be a light—albeit a flickering one at times, I’m afraid—among the girlfriends I already had.
Once, when we were together at a restaurant on a Friday night, an associate of a girlfriend read her palm. I then stretched my hand toward her . . . although I knew I shouldn’t. Cutting through chatter, the woman said, “You know you shouldn’t be doing this, right?” I snatched my hand back, believing God had spoken through her.
Now, as I spoke on a phone with Leticia, this seemed like another directive from God. And so I prayed for Leticia as if it were me and God alone. I shut my eyes and prayed aloud that God would help her pay off the thousands owed the private school and her children would be able to catch up with their studies after returning to school. But most of all, I prayed for Leticia’s peace.
The next time Leticia called, she told me my ultimate prayer had been answered.
“After you prayed, that was the best night of sleep I’ve had in months.”
And after that, Leticia began calling me regularly for advice on living as a Christian. I shared Scriptures that had helped me. Leticia, who was divorced, desired to remarry, and so I happily told her how God brought a Christian husband into my life. And now that has also happened for her.
I shared the gospel and my life and discovered perfection wasn’t needed for either.
I could relate to the apostle Paul in 1 Thessalonians 2:8: “Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well.”
Jacqueline J. Holness, a member of Central Christian Church in Atlanta, is a correspondent for Courthouse News Service, an online, national news service for attorneys. To contact Jacqueline, go to afterthealtarcall.com.