“I’m going to pay you back,” she whispers, tears welling up in the corners of her eyes.
She looks so young. So afraid. So broken. And yet, so determined.
She clenches her fists and swings her legs nervously. And we continue to sit in the corner of the waiting room.
We’re an unlikely pair, K and I. As I watch her, I think back on the two and half years of history that have led us to this doctor’s office in Fishersville, and everywhere I see fingerprints of Grace.
Clearly HE knew this day would come. Maybe she is the reason He brought me here. And while this story is still very much unfinished, I believe that this moment is the answer to the question I have asked night after lonely night: Why, Lord? Why did you bring me here?
K has been one of my students from the beginning. Her ninth grade year was marked by fights (including one that will forever be a school legend) and girl drama. As a brand new counselor, I probably didn’t handle most of my interactions with her as well as I should. To be honest, I don’t remember any conversation we had that year. I just have an impression that she was a challenge and I wasn’t ready.
I guess her sophomore year was a little better. I say that because I don’t remember any incidents, not because it was actually a good year for her. I just know she failed a couple classes and then stopped by one day during summer school and said she wanted to graduate early.
One year ago we did not have a relationship. I’m not sure I even liked her. I remember praying one day and asking for help in connecting with her and loving her.
The prayer worked.
K and I began to see a little more of each other once this past school year started. One day during her lunch period she stopped in my office and asked if she could leave her backpack in my office while she ran an errand. I was a little confused but I agreed. She came back at the end of the period and I asked where she went. “I was visiting my mom in jail.”
It became a weekly routine. She stopped by, dropped off her backpack, and headed up to the jail, which, for those of you not familiar with Rockbridge County, is literally across the street from the high school. When she returned from her visits, I made a point to be available and always asked how her mom was doing and how she was. This continued for several months, until her mother was released.
Fast forward to early December. I looked up from my paperwork and there she was. Eyes red from weeping. I asked what was wrong and the tears started again. After a while came the words, “I’m pregnant.”
And then, there we were, twenty weeks later — after a long, difficult process of obtaining insurance and a health care provider that was much, much harder than it should have been — in the waiting room, about to see a miracle. When we walked it I thought we’d made it through the hard part; it’d be smooth sailing from here. I knew she had no money and was too proud to ask her estranged parents for help so I was prepared to cover what I assumed would be a $25/30 copay. I only half listened to the office manager but suddenly came to upon hearing, “It will be $180 for today.”
I’m certainly not poor by any means, but an unplanned $180 expense hurts. K looked at me and turned to the door, “Well I guess we’re not seeing the doctor today.” In a split second, I pulled out my credit card and handed it to the woman. I grabbed K’s arm, “We’re not going anywhere.”
I finished paying in silence and we made our way to the corner of the waiting room. She began to cry. I wanted to join her. This is so much more than I bargained for, I thought to myself. Please, Lord, help me love her in this moment.
“You shouldn’t have done that, Ms. Mock. It’s not fair. That is way too much money to spend on me. I’m not worth that much. I’m going to pay you back.”
Oh, sweet girl. You can’t.
The words tumbled out. “You’re right, K. It’s not fair, but not for the reason you think. It’s not fair that you’re here right now without your mom or your dad. It’s not fair that you even know that this appointment costs $180 and that you’re the one paying for it. It’s not fair that the only person in your life willing to drive you to this appointment is your school counselor. It’s not fair that you don’t have anyone to fight for you. It’s not fair that you don’t know that you are worth it – that I would pay even if it was $500. You are worth it.”
The tears fell freely now. I wrapped my arms around her and my tears mixed with her own.
You are worth it.
“I’m going to pay you back,” she said again. “I’ll give you a dollar a week if I have to.”
That would take you almost four years….I thought. Even as I thought it, I knew I would never see that money again, and that it was okay. Redemption comes at a price.
How many times in my Christian walk have I said to God, “I’m going to pay you back” when in truth the price of my salvation is infinitely greater than I could ever repay? How many times do I think I can somehow earn points by doing good deeds or making some sacrifice when in reality it would never, ever work?
“What shall I return to the Lord for all his goodness to me? I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord. I will fulfill my vows to the Lord in the presence of all his people.” (Psalm 116:12-14)
How shall I repay him? I will praise Him. I will exalt His name and tell others what He has done for me. And I will call on Him again and again so that He goodness is again revealed. As John Piper writes “The psalmist’s answer to his own question, ‘What shall I render to the Lord for all his benefits?’ is, in essence, that will go on receiving from the Lord so that the Lord’s inexhaustible goodness will be magnified.”
Why do I tell you this story? Because on April 8, 2013, I understood the cost of my freedom in a way I never had before. I realized how greatly it cost the Father, but also how “worth it” it was to Him. And I learned that the best response is to humbly receive and give thanks.
Months have passed since that landmark day…the day I saw grace in a whole new way and K saw her precious baby girl for the first time.
K graduated in May and I continued to take her to her OB appointments. Then, on August 12, I got to be there for this.
Precious girl, you and your mommy are worth any price.