Unbearable pain kept the old woman stooped as she hobbled across the busy street. A car honked and swerved but she didn’t seem to notice. Her gaze was fastened at the top step of the beautiful church on the other side. She grimaced at the sight of so many steps to climb.
Her unsteady legs shook worse than usual but she forced herself to reach the street curb and then, finally, the first step of the magnificent building. She paused to lean on the railing and catch her breath. Then, step by agonizing step, she continued her journey toward the top. A massive door opened and just inside stood two men. Perhaps they would know.
“Sir, could you tell me where I can find Jesus?”
Both greeters looked at her and the younger one smiled. With a twinkle in his eye, he said lightly “You came to the right place for that, ma’am.” He started to reach out, intending to help her into the church. The other greeter, older and obviously in charge, grabbed the boy’s hand and prevented him. He gave the boy a stern look of disapproval and squeezed lightly to let the kid know he had almost made a mistake. Only then did he release the boy’s hand from his grip.
“I’m sorry, madam, but we have a dress code here and, well, quite frankly…”
The old woman looked down at the tattered clothing she wore. It was all she owned. She looked into the eyes of the older gentleman but saw only coldness. The boy, though, still had his twinkle, slightly dimmed by what he had just heard but still recognizable as a twinkle. She would plead her case with him.
“I'm sorry I'm not dressed better and I know I need a bath, but…” She could see the older man bristling. “I was told this is where I could meet Jesus.” Her eyes carried more sorrow and loneliness than the young teen had ever witnessed. He tried again to reach for her arm but, once again, was stopped by the older man.
“You’ll need to move on. This church has a standard to uphold.” It was the cold man again.
“Can’t I please come in, just for a moment?” The old woman was determined. “I’ll not get in the way and I promise I’ll leave just as soon as I’ve met Jesus.”
“Look lady…” The cold man got even colder. “Go clean up and then come back next Sunday. The service is about to begin and you are keeping us from greeting others.”
Slowly, shakily, the tired old woman turned to leave and the teen saw tears streaming down the crevices of her weathered, leathery cheeks. The cold man reached out his hand to some other properly dressed patron of the big beautiful church. Sadly, the old woman noticed how much warmer the cold man seemed to be for the right people. She decided to look for Jesus elsewhere…
…if she could just make it back down that long row of steps. She simply must sit and rest before she tried.
After the services were over several people actually left the church without noticing the grungy old lady crumpled at the top of the steps. Police reports would have little to say about the un-named vagrant that had wandered onto the church steps and died of natural causes. Nobody would ever know of the old lady’s urgent desire to meet Jesus.
Well, that’s not entirely true. One young teenaged greeter would always know and because he knew, he would, for the rest of his life, be changed. He had missed this opportunity but, God willing, he would never miss another.
The old woman stood at the bottom of the grandest steps she had ever seen. With awe and eager anticipation she started up the steps, amazed at the painless ease with which she managed them. Her eyes, though, were focused intently at the top of the golden steps. A man stood there with arms open wide and the warmest of smiles on his face. He encouraged her each step of the way and His love seemed to be engulfing her. This must be…
“Well done, Opal. I’m so glad you met Me in time.” He put His arms around her, wrapping her in a beautiful white robe. She felt so… clean. He motioned toward the door to Opal’s mansion. “Opal, enter into My eternal rest.”
Opal wept for joy.
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