I was out walking in the Canton Pike neighborhood today after church.  I met two ladies that were standing outside a house talking in the neighborhood behind the hospital.  I recognized one of the women and waved hi. She rushed over to where I was and threw her arms around me, an action I was not expecting at all. She then said, Ms. Sherry I know you from Pennyroyal because I have seen you there and I know you from the Christmas party at Challenge House 7.  I asked her name and her friend walked over and we all began to talk. She begins to cry and I ask her if she wants to come back to Challenge House 7 with me and talk.

She did.

All three of us walked back across Canton and to CH7. I made coffee and put out some muffins. She talked, she cried, she suffered. Our coffee mugs soon are empty, but we still cup them in our hands as if the warm porcelain between our fingers could somehow anchor our wobbling, crying souls.

The clock pushes hard toward the end of this afternoon, and we know that we’ll soon part ways to go home and get ready for all that Monday’s bring.  But for now, we linger in the kitchen of CH7, three women sharing the mess of life over a table dotted with crumbs.

My head hurts and my throat swells with a lump of tears. And I can’t think of anything to say.  Words feel like a butterfly band aid for the open wound my new friend has revealed. Her marriage is flailing and her hope is too. Over 25 years of marriage.  I watch the drizzles of despair roll down her cheeks and into that empty coffee cup, and my stomach churns with empathy.

I know the kind of pain that makes tears pool and hope wither, the ache of apathy that throbs loud at night and the pangs of disappointment that hover somewhere just beneath the heart in the waking hours.  And more than anything, I want to help those tearful eyes.

But there are no words for a quick fix, no instant solutions for rebuilding the shards of a shattered marriage.  So, I reach across the table and tangle my fingers with hers.

“Could we just pray before you both go?”

She sighs and pulls her hand from my grasp, drops her gaze and fiddles with the humble diamond ring on her finger.  When she finally answers my question, she chokes on her own words, her voice cracking with doubt. “Do you really think prayer will change anything?”

The weight of her honesty steals my breath.

And a memory comes flooding back,

I am a seven-year-old girl …. sad and frustrated, I am too young to put words to my pain, but I know I feel a little broken inside because of a girl in the fifth grade who bullies me every day at school.

I’m tired of trying to battle the bully with kindness, tired of hiding behind a plastic smile in the hallways and on the playground.

My mom has been an advocate and a listener, a protector and an advisor. Finally, she wipes my tears and wraps her arms around me while saying, 

“Let’s pray for her…”  “Will that really help”, I ask. My Mom says, “I can’t guarantee that prayer will change her heart, but I know for sure that it will change ours.” And with that, she closes her eyes and begins to pray…

My new friend is squirming in her seat while listening to my story, her question still dangling between us in awkward silence.

And I flash my new friend a tiny smile.

“Prayer always changes something…” I say.

My friend wipes her leaky eyes with the back of her hand and nods slowly. She bites her lip and reaches across the table for my hand.  “Will you say the words?” she asks.  “I don’t think I have any left.”

Then, with an aching heart, I begin to pray in faith. Broken, faulty, desperate faith.  My words are raw and real.

“We know you are able to do immeasurably more than we could ask or imagine. We know you are in the business of making beauty from ashes. We know we can trust your heart. We know you will never leave us or forsake us…”  And as we bow our heads over those empty coffee cups, we are suddenly aware of the One who can fill the depths of our need with the riches of His grace. 

And slowly, silently, I feel the hope of God.

My two new friends left feeling that HOPE.

And right now, I am still praying that the the God of all hope will fill every empty space with the fullness of His presence, and give us the strength for this battle in all the days to come. Because prayer always change things…beginning with us.

“The heartfelt and persistent prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much, when put into action and made effective by God—it is dynamic and can have tremendous power”. -James 5:16, Amplified Bible