This Side of Seven: The Test
In school, tests are scheduled. You know what to study, you strive to understand the material, you know when you’ll be tested, and then you get the chance to show off (hopefully) how much you have learned.
In life, tests are often pop quizzes. For example, you can prepare to give CPR, but will you ever get the chance? You can resolve to return a wallet full of money should you ever find one, but it’s just hypothetical until it happens. And what if your rent is past due on the day you do find that fat wallet? Will you pass the test?
One Sunday morning, our doorbell rang. It was early — 6:45 am. The dogs started barking. I put on my glasses and headed downstairs. There, on our front doorstep, was a young woman in a short dress (despite the chilly temperature), holding a paper bag.
“Did I just talk with you on the phone?” she asked.
“No,” I answered. “Can I help you?”
“I must be at the wrong address.”
“Who are you looking for?” I asked.
“I’m not sure what his name is,” she replied.
I had another question: “Are there drugs in that bag?”
“No,” she answered.
“Is it food?”
Again, the answer was no, but no further explanation was offered.
Standing there in my glasses, blue pajamas, and with my crazy bedhead hair, it was clear to her she was going to have to help me figure out what was going on.
“I’m an escort,” she said.
“I’m sorry, I’m not sure who called you, but good luck,” I said as I closed the door and headed back upstairs.
Before I could crawl back into bed, the Holy Spirit convicted me. I had just shut the door in the face of somebody’s daughter. I rushed back downstairs and saw that her high heels had taken her back out to the street. I opened the door and motioned for her to come back.
“Look, I’m not passing judgment on your lifestyle, but I would like to encourage you to forget about whoever called you and just go home,” I said.
“Yeah,” she agreed. “And this sucks because it cost me $30 to take a cab out here. Can I use your phone?”
She had a phone, so I’m not sure why she needed mine, but I said sure and handed it to her. “Can you turn around and come back and get me?” she asked someone. She handed her phone back and remarked on how cold she was.
“Wait right there,” I said. “Let me get you a blanket.” Which I did. I handed it to her, closed the door and went back upstairs. My wife, Mary Carol, was drifting in and out of sleep and asked, “Who was that?”
Who was she? I don’t know.
What was she? A missed opportunity.
Each year during late March or April, Christians reflect on the torture and crucifixion of Jesus Christ and then celebrate his resurrection. The followers of Christ are tasked with learning about his life and then working to follow his example.
Jesus had encounters with escorts. In chapter seven of the Gospel of Luke, a prostitute crashes a dinner where she knew Jesus would be and wept at Christ’s feet, wetting them with her tears. She then pours expensive perfume on his feet and wipes it off with her hair. The Pharisees are offended and embarrassed by her conduct and question Jesus’ status as a prophet, since he was allowing a sinner to touch him. Jesus defends her, saying that because she has sinned greatly, the forgiveness of those sins is also greater — and she, more grateful.
And then there is the encounter Jesus has with the woman at the well as told in the Gospel of John. We don’t know her profession or even her name, but we know she was a Samaritan, a race with whom Jews did not associate. We know she had married five times, and her current mate was not her husband. Yet Jesus treated her with kindness and visited with her as an equal. She left the conversation a believer.
Unlike Jesus, who would accept invitations to meals where prostitutes would be present, this was the first time I had ever interacted with an escort.
She needed guidance. I advised her what not to do rather than offer her a better way.
She needed transportation. I helped her call a cab rather than offer to have Mary Carol and I give her a ride.
She needed warmth. I gave her a blanket rather than ask her to come inside.
After she left, I found that blanket neatly folded on our front porch chair. I had expected it to be gone. That is when it hit me: My heart was unprepared for her visit. My goal is to become more Christ-like, and I was suddenly faced with how far the distance is between how Jesus would act and how I acted. Titus 3:1 challenges us as believers to, “Be ready for every good deed.” I wasn’t ready.
When Christ was tested by Satan in the wilderness, he was ready. He responded with scripture that was committed to memory. And there are passages that would have helped me pass my test too — if only they had been in me.
“Contribute to the needs of God’s people, and welcome strangers into your home.” (Romans 12:13)
“So continue encouraging each other and building each other up, just like you are doing already.” (1 Thessalonians 5:11)
“Don’t forget to do good and to share what you have because God is pleased with these kinds of sacrifices.” (Hebrews 13:16)
It is now so clear: I should have welcomed her into our home, encouraged her and offered to do more to help.
This young woman did not want to be visiting my doorstep or any other doorstep at 6:45 on a Sunday morning. There was no joy in her demeanor. She was not embracing a sinful lifestyle.
My next opportunity to shine probably won’t be as blatantly obvious as an escort ringing my doorbell (and yet I STILL missed it!). I need more of the Holy Spirit in me and will be working toward one goal: to be ready the next time I am tested.
For two decades, Jason Pederson served as KATV-Channel 7’s Seven On Your Side reporter. Now on the other “side” of his award-winning time on the news, he now serves as Deputy Chief of Community Engagement for the Arkansas Department of Human Services. His perspective-filled and thought-provoking column, “This Side of Seven,” publishes exclusively in AY About You magazine monthly.
READ MORE: This Side of Seven: Defying the Odds