Her face scrolls across the page and it’s startling. What was suppose to be a simple distraction from a long day, turns into a harsh reminder of what I was fleeing from. An innocent post by someone well-meaning is my reality. Her missing poster, flashes her charismatic smile, her innocence mixed with intellect. I’m not sure everyone sees it when they’re clicking share, but when you know her and you see it, it’s undeniable.
It takes me back to five months ago, when I met her for the first time. She was being held, against the judges’ better judgment, because she was a runner and what else can they do to keep her safe. She was honest and disclosing, but at the time we didn’t have a bed for her. She understood, but quietly hated the system for not having a place for her. She asked if I would come back to visit. I quickly agreed and found myself looking forward to our next visit.
Each visit she disclosed a little more. She wasn’t proud “of getting in the situation” but she was very proud “of getting herself out.” She confidently told of how he schemed her and she knew it, but she schemed him back pretending to love him until she found the opportunity to fight back. And fight she did! Punching and kicking fiercely until she could get by him to the hallway and then running through the lobby causing a scene, knowing someone wouldn’t be able to ignore it because of her age and not wanting a scandal.
As the month ticked by, she never lost her confidence but she lost her faith. She never doubted that she could take care of herself, but she began to distrust that anyone else would do it as well. She continued to set in her navy scrubs in her cinder block cell assuring everyone that would listen that she had changed; she wouldn’t run again if they would just get her out. But, family wasn’t an option and, well, our beds were still full.
The day finally came. We had a graduate and she would be coming to us! Everything was ready and she was happy. For the next several days, she was polite and courteous. She was gracious with her peers and kind to her staff. She appeared peaceful and content. She stated on numerous occasions, “she was ready to grow, to focus on herself, to do what was best for her for once.”
But the temptation was too great; the choice too daunting. She was faced with the choice to stay and embrace the trusting, loving relationships around her or to choose running led by the fear of not being able to change.
She ignored trust.
She chose fear. But not without looking back. She ran and we pursued. She pulled ahead and then for just a moment she stopped and looked back again torn between the choice of trusting her future or the fear of living in the moment remembering the past.
Again she chose fear. We were left standing in dismay and heartbreak.
And, now her picture scrolls across the screen with the title MISSING at the top and we’re left waiting; waiting for her safe return, some deeper understanding. We’re just waiting.
But we wait with anticipation. We wait by following up on leads, contacting guardians, driving by places she’s been known to go in the past. We wait, praying for the opportunity to show her compassion. We wait, praying for the opportunity to offer forgiveness. We wait, praying for the opportunity to present her with the best we have to give.
We wait ready to celebrate her return. But most importantly, we trust that someone, much greater than us is also waiting of her return!
“So he got up and went to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.” -Luke 15:20