Renee is 19. When I meet her, cocaine is fresh in her system. She hasn't slept in 36 hours and she won't for another 24.
It is a familiar blur of coke, pot, pills and alcohol. She has agreed to meet us, to listen and to let us pray. We ask
Renee to come with us, to leave this broken night. She says she'll go to rehab tomorrow, but she isn't ready now. It is
too great a change. We pray and say goodbye and it is hard to leave without her.
She has known such great pain; haunted dreams as a child, the near-constant presence of evil ever since. She has felt
the touch of awful naked men, battled depression and addiction, and attempted suicide. Her arms remember razor blades,
fifty scars that speak of self-inflicted wounds. Six hours after I meet her, she is feeling trapped, two groups of
"friends" offering opposite ideas. Everyone is asleep. The sun is rising. She drinks long from a bottle of liquor, takes
a razor blade from the table and locks herself in the bathroom. She cuts herself, using the blade to write "FUCK UP"
large across her left forearm.
The nurse at the treatment center finds the wound several hours later. The center has no detox, names her too great a
risk, and does not accept her. For the next five days, she is ours to love. We become her hospital and the possibility
of healing fills our living room with life. It is unspoken and there are only a few of us, but we will be her church,
the body of Christ coming alive to meet her needs, to write love on her arms.
She is full of contrast, more alive and closer to death than anyone I've known, like a Johnny Cash song or some theatre
star. She owns attitude and humor beyond her 19 years, and when she tells me her story, she is humble and quiet and
kind, shaped by the pain of a hundred lifetimes. I sit privileged but breaking as she shares. Her life has been so dark
yet there is some soft hope in her words, and on consecutive evenings, I watch the prettiest girls in the room tell her
that she's beautiful. I think it's God reminding her.