The Uber Encounter

Here I was, a 55-year-old woman who decided to fulfill my dream of getting a college education. Hence, rather than my looking for another job after a company downsizing, my husband became the only wage earner while I began my degree in Psychology. After a time, finances were getting tighter and I decided to become an Uber driver to earn a little money while I was studying. I studied in parking lots while waiting for Uber requests to come through. It was a classic college kid story--except I am mid-life with grown children--not my twenties!

To accommodate my introverted nature, I placed packages on the front seat of the car so that when I picked up a rider, they would have to get into the back seat. Having a stranger sitting beside me in the front was an uncomfortable comfort zone that I didn't want to deal with.  Weeks went by and I endured the constant rides with strangers, making small talk if necessary but driving quietly if they didn't engage easily in conversation.

It was a Friday morning when I received a request to pick up Mary Elizabeth. Arriving at the address, I witnessed a rather awkward hug between Mary Elizabeth and a man who appeared to be quite a bit her senior. She crawled into the back seat and off we went. She appeared to have been dressed nicely at one point, but now the clothes looked a day rumpled and her makeup was smeared.

Shortly into the ride, Mary Elizabeth began coughing quite a bit. She assured me that she was not contagious and this was a long-standing problem that she was taking medication for. I was playing Christian music on the radio and she expressed enjoyment of the songs. She then commented that she had attended church the previous Sunday, but because of her cough she had left early, feeling that people were looking at her. She wanted to attend again this week, she said. And then, out of the blue, "But I am an alcoholic. I make bad decisions because of that. That's why I went home with that guy last night." Her voice cracked with emotion.

So much for my introverted nature. I searched for the right words to say and what came out was, "Mary Elizabeth, I don't care how much you drink, you keep getting up on Sunday morning and going to church. God loves you no matter what you have done and He will be there waiting for you, even if you are drunk. Please keep going." It didn't seem the right time to talk about the seventh-day Sabbath.

And then I asked a question that I could not have thought of because my nature would be to wiggle out of this intimate conversation as quickly as possible. I asked Mary Elizabeth when the desire for alcohol was the strongest. "From the moment I wake up in the morning," she softly replied. "Ok," I responded, "I will pray for you every morning as you get up that God will help you overcome the desire for alcohol. What time do you wake up?" That was when she chuckled a little and shared that she used to work at a bakery, which meant getting up very early in the morning. Her body was still in the habit of waking up early. 4:00 AM.

Internally, I sighed. No way. There was no way I would be awake at 4:00 AM each morning. But I had told her I would pray for her, and I wasn't going to verbally deny it now. I just wouldn't tell her that it would likely be 7:00 am when I prayed for her. Mary Elizabeth was crying by now as she shared that she had moved to our area to escape the bad influences of family and friends in her hometown. She had tried to get away from the alcohol, but it didn't work.

We were nearing the destination that was showing on the Uber app as her drop off point. As we waited at a red light, I felt her lean forward in the back seat. "Would you mind praying with me today?" she asked. Oh boy. Public praying is not my comfort zone at all. I can privately pray easily. But with a stranger? And yet I realized that this opportunity was being handed directly to me. I should have been the one asking if I could pray with her.
But no, she made the move first.

"Of course, I will." And when we pulled into the driveway and parked, I leaned over that seat, grasp her hands in mine and sincerely prayed for the presence of God in her life. Mary Elizabeth was sobbing as she left my car that day. I came home sobered at what an Uber encounter had turn into.

That could have been the end of the story. Except the next morning, I felt myself awaken while it was still dark. I rolled over to look at the clock and saw the time. 4:00 AM. Unbelievably, God was still working for Mary Elizabeth through me. I could rebel and choose not to set an alarm, but He was going to awaken me to make sure I kept my commitment to her. I prayed for her. The next morning, He awakened me at 4:00 AM. And the next. And the next. And the next.

One week later I stopped by the deli where Mary Elizabeth told me she worked. The employees told me she no longer worked there. Another week went by and I drove back to the house where I had dropped her off that day.  Uber probably wouldn't approve of my stalking. No one answered the door, so I wrote a note on a piece of paper and placed it on the picnic table on the porch with a rock to hold it down.  I left my number and assured her I was praying daily for her.

I never heard from Mary Elizabeth again. But I don't believe that is the end of the story. Because I find myself loving this beautiful soul from afar and praying for her often. Her story isn't finished. There was a reason God had a middle-aged Uber driver sent to her that day. He worked it out so that she would get the message that her alcoholism doesn't separate her from His love.

I can only hope that someone else, while on the move, loves her too.

Story submitted by Ruth, a viewer from Hendersonville, North Carolina

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