We all have one: a silent hero.
The person who led us to the Lord. Who prayed without ceasing for our conversion. Who said or did something that changed our life–but who, for one reason or another, is no longer part of our lives.
It could’ve been somebody we met in another part of the country or world. And it could be their impact on you might not have been immediate.
I have such a silent hero.
She was a casual friend I had when I lived in North Carolina. After I returned to Illinois we kept in touch through letters or the phone. There was nothing romantic. Just something to do.
Several months later she offered to fly me out to her home. No strings attached. She needed to see me. And she said she would take care of everything. The flight, the food and the sleeping arrangements. I, of course, accepted immediately. I was broke and bored.
She picked me up at the airport, we ate fried chicken for dinner, and then drove to her grandmother’s house. It was dusk, and she lived out in the country with long highways, stretches of farmland, isolated houses and giant trees punctuating the horizon.
Her grandmother lived on a hill in a mobile home just off the road. She smiled when she saw me, hugged me, eyed me. This was the young man her granddaughter had told her about. Long, tangled blonde hair, tiny t-shirt, massive denim jeans and black suede sneakers. Over my shoulder I slung my backpack.
“That’s all you brought?” she said.
I nodded. “Yes, ma’am. Don’t need much.”
Then, after a short stint of nervous small talk the girl said goodbye to her grandmother. It was getting late and she had to be up at 3:30 in the morning. Work started at 4:30.
The grandmother ushered me through the door and into her house, which was full of glass shelves loaded with glass animals, angels and children. The living room was crowded with fuzzy furniture. She showed me my room. It was small, but it had a bed, a night table, a lamp and closet.
Next, she showed me the breakfast cereal, the milk, the cans of soup.
“This is for you to eat.”
“Thank you,” I said. “This is all really very kind of you.”
She turned and looked at me. “Don’t thank me. Thank Nicole.” She was smiling. “She bought all of this with her own money.”
The next day I killed time waiting for Nicole by showering, reading and roaming around the countryside.
Near five Nicole arrived and we took a trip to visit her brother. He lived on a dirt road. His house slumped, and the busted screen door creaked every time it was opened. Her brother trotted out. He was short, skinny, dark hair and thin goatee. He didn’t wear a shirt but he did wear a smile. He spoke with a heavy southern accent. His children and friends came in and out of the house. There was a wild pig they were going to hunt. He asked if I was interested.
“Sorry. Didn’t bring the right shoes.”
Then Nicole, “Grandmother is expecting us for dinner.”
We arrived at grandmother’s house. We ate spaghetti, and then Nicole and I went to sit outside to look at up the stars. In that theater of clear skies Nicole told me why I was there. She was a born-again Christian. She had surrendered her life shortly after I had left for Illinois. And ever since then she had a burning desire to share the gospel with me.
Her kindness touched me. I told her so. But I wasn’t ready to be a Christian. I wasn’t ready to know the Lord. I had too much life to live. But even in that dead, self-absorbed state I could recognize genuine devotion, joy and peace.
I could recognize selflessness.
Over the next couple days we visited old friends, drove around the country and talked. I eventually boarded my plane and flew home, still a heathen. She and I traded a phone call here, a letter there. Then I never heard from her again. I’m sure it was my fault. I probably stopped returning her letters. I did that a lot.
It would be nearly three years later that I would finally surrender to Jesus Christ. And another ten before I thought of Nicole. Before I understood her conviction and her sacrifice.
I wanted to thank her for being my silent hero. I still do want to thank her. But I haven’t a clue where to start. I don’t even remember her real name.
The Christian in me doesn’t think it matters that much. At least not compared to the reward the Lord will hand her when He says, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” In my own Christian walk I could only hope to do half as well.
Thank you, my silent hero, wherever you are.
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