I walk away from her shaken to my core, more disturbed than I had been since I came to Colfax. Three times she calls out: “Please pray for me later tonight.” “You will pray for me, won’t you?” “Don’t forget to pray for me tonight.”  Both a plea and reminder. I promise I will and head off, struggling to name my feelings.In many ways her story, though hard, is common. I met Minnie** briefly a couple weeks earlier—overweight, friendly, big smile. She got food, wanted prayer and gave me a big hug when leaving.

Tonight, she looks over the 2nd floor railing, spots me and lights up with that great smile. I head upstairs and she introduces me to her “husband.”  I notice now that she appears slow and mentally impaired; her husband seems the same. Two people, limited in ability, trying to survive in the hell of an East Colfax motel.She wants prayer so we three circle up. I ask, “what I can pray for?” She says “Pray for me, because I have to go ‘out there’ tonight.” Code words. The money for the room will come from sex work. Not an unusual story. But tonight it feels harder, maybe because she seems slow, because her “husband” is there, because we are holding hands in a prayer circle.I pray, asking Jesus to be with her, even “out there.” She begins to sob, then quiets and I finish the prayer. The second I finish, she throws her arms around my neck and weeps, clinging to me as though I were her only lifeline. Sorrow pours out, sorrow surely for her whole life, but especially sorrow for what faces her “out there,” not just tonight but many nights.

Then, leaving, three times the request: “Please pray for me later tonight…don’t forget.” I walk away shattered. Minnie gave me a glimpse of the degradation she experiences; her pain penetrated my whole being. How does she do it? How does she have sex with someone who disgusts her? Does she fight the urge to vomit and run screaming into the night, knowing that if she bails, it means a night on the street or a day without food? The horror of her choice and the quiet acquiescence of her husband destroys me. This feeling is way beyond helplessness. I feel that all the time. Here, as elsewhere there is little to be done in the moment.  Being shattered feels new. Her story is familiar, but the combination of her sweet slowness and her howls of sorrow leave me undone.But something more is going on inside me as I walk away from her, something more than this shattered sorrow. I am seized by the urge to scream! Scream in frustration, helplessness, and rage. I want to howl to both earth and heaven about this deep, sinful injustice Minnie is living. I want to pound my fists on something til they bleed.I am simply angry. Angry at myself that I can’t do anything. Angry at the church because we haven’t done better.  Angry at society for not helping the weakest and, yes, angry at God for allowing this. How can it be that Minnie—weak, struggling, sorrowing—has no other choice than this? How? It is wrong beyond description!

Days later, rattled and reflective, a word surfaces in my heart; the biblical word lament. The Psalms in particular have many laments. A lament sees it all—the pain, the failures of the world and the righteous, even the seeming silence of God; it then screams in impotent fury.Following Jesus allows us to lament. At times, following Jesus even requires a lament. Standing with Minnie, there is no easy, cotton-candy Jesus answer to the dilemma she faces. To hear Minnie’s story and not lament says we are not facing hard reality.

But even here, mid-lament, we live in hope knowing that over all this is the powerful love of our Heavenly Father. He loves Minnie and desires good. She trusts in Jesus and can cling to Him. She is now my friend and I will love her, work for solutions and pray for something better for her in this world.Mid-lament, living in that hope, my eyes also lift to eternity. What is not made right for Minnie here, will be made right for her there. In eternity there will be no more screaming, howling, or rage; for the old order of things will pass away. There—praise be to Jesus—nothing to lament. I cling to that hope as tightly as Minnie clung to me.Until that great day, we love, work, and pray; and once in awhile we scream. All in hope.

**Name changed to protect identity.