My 16-year-old nephew was driving and, since he was still quite a ways away, hadn't yet reduced his speed, but we were gaining on her now. And she was still standing there, facing us in her long shorts, bikini top, and buzz cut hair.
My brother suggested slowing down as we got closer and closer, and so my nephew began to brake and change lanes. Apparently she had not seen us.
But as we changed lanes, so did she. Again, directly in front of the car. And though we were slowing, now we were very close. My nephew slammed on the brakes, changed back to the other lane, and narrowly missed taking down the young woman. As we passed, she look perturbed. She threw her hands up like we had just ticked her off, and the wild look in her eyes made us think we should keep our distance.
But then I noticed the blood. The wild-eyed pedestrian had dried blood smeared all over her abdomen between the top of her shorts and the bottom of her bikini. This woman needed help, but then, if we stopped, so might we.
After we passed her and made sure she was safely on the other side of the road, my nephew pulled over on the shoulder and we called 9-1-1. We were still not sure what we had witnessed. A dare, a suicide attempt, a drug-crazed high?
We followed her as she continued walking, giving the dispatcher a play by play. Another car pulled over also trying to help, but she continued walking. She had been smoking something during the whole incident, and when she pulled a pack of cigarettes out of her pocket, I had wondered whether there was also a knife in there. Where had the blood come from?
Before long, the police arrived and began talking with her, and when we swung back around to let them know we were the 9-1-1 callers, the police said we were right in calling. She had had WAY too much to drink.
I have thought a lot about that night and that woman since it happened. I couldn't help thinking about what a tragedy would have taken place had it been dark, had my nephew not been able to brake in time, had the woman quickly jumped back to the other lane at the last minute. It's more the stuff of movies than of real life to me, but not to her. And it would have marked us all for life.
I also was overwhelmed by the frenzied stream of emotions I felt within the space of a couple of minutes -- and then within the space of several days: curiosity, concern, fear, judgment, contempt, pity, relief. I certainly didn't want to be like the crowds who watched brutal attacks on women or homeless men dying without raising a hand. But I also couldn't tell what was going on behind those bloodshot eyes and in the life of that blood-smeared body. Had I missed an opportunity for compassion because of fear? Was it enough just to call the police and make sure she was safe?
And then I imagined Jesus running out into that street. Grabbing that blood-stained girl he loved, throwing her aside just before the car plowed over Him. That's what he does for us: finds us at our worst, steps into our lives, and accepts the full force of the speeding car of God's wrath. I pray we all have a second chance to see the truth of that.