Leaking Love: Cindee’s Story – Part 2
PART TWO: Leaking Love: Cindee’s Story
In 1976, Cindee’s mother ended her own life. While it was not an outright suicide, accompanied by the customary “Goodbye, and I’m sorry” note, by Cindee’s account, her mother deliberately put herself in harm’s way.
Intentional or not, her mother’s death made Cindee feel utterly abandoned. A deep-seated anger began to take root. It mattered little that the anger she felt towards her mother was because of a choice that had nothing to do with her. To a broken heart, it’s a distinction without a difference.
Her way of dealing with the grief and the pain was all too familiar: drugs and alcohol. And so began her rapid descent into the depths of addiction. A no man’s land where any man could read, then happily heed, her “Use and Abuse” sign.
“I needed to feel something—anything—and drugs especially became my default source of comfort,” says Cindee. “It made me feel alive.”
She continued that cycle of addiction, abuse, addiction, abuse for a very long time. Forty years to be exact. Forty years of wandering in the wilderness of her wayward heart. By then, she was estranged from her children and most anyone else who dared to care—only to be pushed away.
Broken and Bone Weary
Then came the day of reckoning. A point in time when she simply had run out of steam—too tired to take one more step. Too drained to keep all-night vigils against the ever-present predators. Too worn down to beg, borrow and make deals for that next fix, that next drink. Too exhausted to lay her broken and bone-weary body on yet another patch of cold, hard ground.
She was lost and needed a way out. She knew she would not find redemption among the ashes of all those burnt bridges. Or through the fleeting comfort of a man. Besides, she was getting older. Her health was doing downhill. The bloom was off the rose and the male admirers were getting fewer and fewer.
Soon, Cindee found herself at the Mission. She had been there before. Four times, to be exact. During one of those times, the Mission’s Pastor Honey baptized her in Whiskeytown Lake. It had felt good at the time—spiritually cleansing—but her addiction felt better…temporarily. “Smooth as Tennessee Whiskey…but the bottom of the bottle was always dry.”
She had not yet hit that bottom. Instead, she chose once again to hide… to find those fleeting friends in the fallacious comforts that at first embrace you, but then abandon you.
Kiss the Book
But by the fifth try, Cindee’s eyes were open. She was ready to see…and to be seen. She finally embraced what on some level she had known all along: that the Mission was her place. Her one and perhaps last opportunity to turn her life around before she made that final journey home. Her first and last hurrah.
How she came there is how we all come to the foot of the Cross. Weary and sin-stained.
“I was gritty and gross and had grown so far apart from the God I had encountered as a child…and then again as an adult, when I had been baptized. I had lost my spirituality.”
“Help me, Lord, she told Him. “I’m tired of the fight.” That was it. No Sinner’s Prayer. No drawn-out confession. After all, what could she say that He did not already know?
A surrendered heart. That is all He wanted—and all He ever wants. “Oh love, that wilt not let me go. I rest my weary soul in thee.” For the first time in her life, Cindy did rest. And sat…and read…and meditated on His Living Word—feasting on His incalculable goodness, His endless mercy.
“This time I had the Lord deep in my heart. And I would read His Word, and then kiss the book and say, through my grateful, grateful heart, “I’m complete.”
“Woman, Do These Men Condemn You?
No more Georgie Porgies. No more “kissed the girls and made them cry.” She had finally found a man who would never hurt her. Or steal her soul. A Man in whom she could put all her faith and trust. Because she knew He would “never leave or forsake her.” Ever.
Cindee had found her place. Her place of grace. A place where she could plant her face at His feet and allow the cleansing tears to flow freely.
She was the spiritually hungry woman who poured a bottle of expensive perfume over the Master’s feet—defying the righteous to embrace the pure.
She was the cast-off woman caught in the act of adultery who for the first time in her life found a man who wanted nothing from her, and gave her everything in return. “Woman, do these men condemn you? Then neither do I. Go and sin no more.”
Cindee was all in. She poured herself into the work of the Mission with everything she had. Although physically challenged, she volunteered to clean the bathrooms because “the ladies deserve it…they deserve a nice fresh bathroom every day.”
She had mentors, too. Women who had been there. Women who, like her, had been used and abused. Women who were estranged from their children…or had had them taken away. Women who had turned to drugs or drink so they would not have to think about all that they had lost.
“He who is forgiven much loves much.” And so the forgiven loved on her, encouraged her, prayed with her and guided her on that rocky road to redemption. That salvation we must all work out with fear and trembling as we daily take up our Cross and follow Him.
“Would you be my friend?”
Cindee was not shy about finding friends. After one couple had ministered to the guests through Bible teaching and music, Cindee asked them unabashedly, “Would you be my friend?” At first taken aback by her forthright request, they soon gave her an unequivocal yes. They then asked their newfound friend if she needed anything.
“I just need a hairbrush,” she told them. “You see my hair is thick and all I have is a comb.” When they returned, they presented her with a new hairbrush. She considered it a gift of mercy—like the plastic bucket, the makeshift fence and the soft pillow God had supplied down by the river.
For her, those kinds of things meant friendship—and love. And yet she was always shocked when anyone returned her friendship. “I was shocked…shocked that they took the time to be my friends,” says Cindy.
It’s not often that Cindee is speechless.
“God has given me the gift of being graceful and kind. Moreover, I promised that when I came here that I would use my ‘big mouth’ to declare the truth about God: how big and good and kind He really is. Oh, if only I had truly believed that myself. I could have saved myself 40 years of begging for what was already there.”
He Who Remains
Cindee is sleeping well these days. A comfortable mattress in a brand-new room, with “cozy bedding and a really good pillow,” has replaced the hard ground. She enjoys three squares a day, no wet buckets for a fridge, no lumpy purse for a pillow or having to sleep with a handmade weapon, surrounded by a makeshift wire fence. Best of all, she is no longer alone in the world.
Miraculously, her daily bouts of dysentery disappeared the moment she stepped foot on the Mission grounds. She was no longer a leper, crying out, “Unclean! Unclean!” She could freely give and receive those warm, enveloping hugs that she craved so much.
At the end of each evening, Cindee says her prayers, closes both eyes and dreams peaceful dreams. The dreams that only those who have known what it is like to go without a moment’s peace for 40 years, can know.
She is back by the river. Each night at the Mission that “peace like a river” rolls over her with the sweet grogginess of slumber—enveloping her in a Love that will not let her go. He is the Savior who Sees—and remains.
IMPORTANT UPDATE: A short while ago, Cindee suffered an unexpected medical crisis. They life flighted her to a San Francisco hospital where she struggled for her life. At one point, the doctors were on the verge of pulling the plug.
Thankfully, due to the constant barrage of prayers from her friends at the Mission—both staff members and guests—she pulled through.
Cindee is now at a physical rehabilitation facility where she is learning to walk, talk and speak again. Please pray for her during this process—that she would recover quickly and continue with the process of finding housing and employment.