I woke up Sunday morning thinking about Jesus. “Lord,” I said. “Will you show me what I can do for you today?” My heart yearned to do something that would count for eternity.
I was teaching Sunday School to 20 little sweethearts in the pre-school class that morning. That would surely count as an eternally profitable task, especially if I sweetened the message with a special snack at the end of the lesson. I’d decided the night before that baby oranges would do the trick, but I didn’t have enough at home. I’d need to stop by the local grocery store on my way to church.
Now, I never feel good about using a credit card for just one little item. It seems like such a waste of paperwork. (I know. The Wealthy Barber would roll his eyes at me. I’m sure this line of reasoning regularly increases the charges on my monthly bill, but that’s just the way it is.) So as I drove along I was thinking about how I could solve this teensy charge problem. I could pick up a few more items, but I really didn’t have time to do that much shopping.
It was then it occurred to me that there might be someone in the checkout line who wouldn’t mind my adding their charges to my bill. A brilliant solution! But I’d need to be discerning about this. I didn’t want to embarrass anyone. Not everyone appreciates an offer to buy their groceries. So I walked into the store looking around for a potential victim.
It is early, and at first it looks like I am the only shopper in the store, but as I turn down the aisle toward the till with my bag of oranges, I notice a woman with a can of fruit cocktail in her hand ducking into the line just ahead of me. She looks at me with a shy smile and adds the can to the collection of items on the counter in front of her.
I watch for signs that this person might be willing to help me with my teensy-charge problem. She holds some bills in her hand as she watches the cashier ring up her purchases so I know her funds are limited (unlike my credit card funds which, of course, are not). She says something to the cashier which I can’t hear, then reaches out and pushes a pound of cheese away from her other groceries. “Okay. I just won’t get the cheese then,” she says.
This is when I realize that my random problem-solving thoughts have not been random at all. Here’s how the morning has really gone:
Ginny wakes up and Jesus says: “I have a job for you this morning. You know those oranges you want to buy for the little sweethearts in your class? Well, there’s another sweetheart I want you to meet before you get to church this morning. Don’t go to Coopers to buy the oranges, go to Extra Foods. She’s planning a shopping trip there. She’ll be in the line in front of you when you buy the oranges.”
The check out counter at Extra Foods suddenly glows with the light of God’s presence. He is here!
I reach out, push the pound of cheese back up against the woman’s other groceries and say, “No. Add the cheese, and add my groceries too. I’ll pay for all of it.”
There’s a moment of stunned silence before both the cashier and the customer speak. “What a kind thing to do,” the cashier says. The woman who had left her purchases to go pick up a can of fruit cocktail at the last minute (and so delaying her check out until I would be there to pay for it) says, “Thank you,” with tears glistening in her eyes.
I explain to them both how it happened: “It’s not my kindness. God told me to do this. I almost went to Coopers for my oranges, but God said to come here, so I could buy your groceries. He wants you to know that He loves you.”
After a couple of hugs, lots of smiles from the cashier, and a few teary eyes, the woman whom God loves left the store with her cheese, and I left with my oranges, my heart warm, full of awe to realize that we have all three just encountered God, up close and personal.
We’ve all three been blessed by the encounter. Every time the beloved sweetheart slices off a piece of her cheese this week she will remember that God went out of His way to tell her He loves her. The cashier will certainly talk with other customers about the incident, so more hearts will be warmed. And every time I eat one of the oranges, I’ll remember too.
Yes, I am eating the oranges. I took them to church but forgot to give them to the kids after class. I’m sure that’s all right. It never was about the oranges anyway.
God is closer to us than our inmost thoughts. He cares for us; He speaks His love into our hearts. And what an awesome reminder that God’s acts of kindness are never random.