Thursday, November 4, 2010

Be careful what you pray for...

I got in line with my grocery cart and knew I had waited too late in the day to do my shopping.  People were getting off work and buying groceries on their way home.  I resigned myself to standing in line and began people watching.  Wal-Mart is a great place to watch people…everyone goes to Wal-Mart.  I had decided to make an effort to connect with strangers and prayed for God to help me strike up a conversation with the people I come into contact with.  If I was going to be a blessing to others than I had to open my mouth and speak. 

An older woman was paying, the next lady in line was Asian with 2 small children. Her little boy was sitting in the shopping cart, the little girl was trying to add things to the cart as her mom unloaded items. I glanced at the cashier, she was watching the young boy in the cart as he and his older sister interacted, the cashier looked at the boy and I thought she tried to smile but it didn’t really happen.

Directly in front of me was another lady, she started unloading her cart when it was her turn and I decided to speak to her, just to be friendly. I said something about the fact that there should be an easier way to shop, you know- just have it delivered to your house so you don’t have to stand in line and waste your time after work. She smiled and nodded while focusing on her cart and items she was placing on the counter.  She was pleasant but not really open to conversation.

I started watching the cashier and she seemed so tired, or sad so I prayed about what to say to her as I got up there with my items. Cheryl was her name according to her name tag. So I smiled at her and I told her she looked tired. I asked her if she was almost done with her day or just getting started. She said she would be there until eleven. She said she was tired. She wasn’t sleeping at night, her daughter-in-law had left her son and taken her granddaughter with her so she hadn’t been able to see the little girl. I could see the sadness in her eyes as she told me this; I thought how much pain her heart must be in and it brought tears to my eyes.

I asked her if she had a church that she attended. And she said yes and shared the name of the church. I said that at times like this it’s good to have a church that you can have pray with you. She didn’t say anything else, so I told her as I left I hoped she was able to get to sleep that night.

I thought all the way out to the car, how could I have helped her, what could I have said to lift her spirits? I was at a loss. I wondered what good does it do to be sensitive to others pain if when you know what that pain is you are helpless to do anything about it. What do you say?  How do you comfort a stranger in the few moments it takes to make a purchase? Once again I felt like a failure.  “Really Lord?  You want to use me to bless others, to shine the Light of Your love through me?  Because honestly…I’m not all that good at it!”
When I prayed that God would break my heart with the things that break His heart I didn’t expect it to happen at the register at Walmart.  I wasn’t prepared for Him to answer in the way He did. God is determined to let me know that He works how He wants to work, in the way He chooses to do so, any time He wants to.  As much as I try to keep God in a nice and tidy box where I think I can understand Him and how He works—He refuses to stay there!   I’m really glad He is bigger than that.

Later that evening I thought of Cheryl and prayed for her and her son, her daughter-in-law and her granddaughter. I prayed that Cheryl’s heart would be comforted that she would be able to sleep, the daughter-in-laws heart would be softened so the family could see the granddaughter and that the granddaughters heart would be protected from the fall out of parents that are having marriage difficulties.
I prayed again for God to use me in spite of my emotions, in spite of my fear of making a mess of it.  He assured me that He did…there’s a woman who was reminded that there is power in prayer and that she could and should share her burden with her church family. He assured me that He does…her name, her family, her cares were lifted to the throne of grace in prayer…my prayer.  He assured me that He will…as long as I am willing He will use me to accomplish His purpose for my life, He will show me hurting people if I will keep my eyes open and my heart tender.

Since that first encounter at the check out at Wal-Mart nearly three years ago there have been brief conversations with strangers as they have made purchases where I'm the lady behind the register.  I work at a Hallmark store.  There was the woman who needed a card and gift for her grandaughter.  The grandaughter had just been to the doctor where they could not find her baby's heart beat, the baby she was scheduled to deliver in a few days.  There was the elderly couple who came in together.  He was a retired Air Force officer and served in Korea.  We chatted for a good fifteen minutes about the military community and how much we missed it.  A few months later I saw the elderly woman come into the store alone and asked how her husband was doing.  He had lost his battle with cancer.  I hadn't known he was dealing with cancer.  We shared the memory of our conversation that day months before and she smiled as I commented on what a nice and gentle man he was.

I have become more sensitive to the leading of Holy Spirit.  It's amazing how He clues me in to a heart that's hurting.  I'm going about my business, working, doing what I do and seeing people come and go.  Out of the blue God will give me a 'nudge'...I'll take a second look at someone.  I'll wonder if I'm making assumptions or if it's really God through Holy Spirit getting my attention.  I wonder how many times I've been too busy and missed the promptings and the opportunity to be a blessing.  Those times I connect with someone- I know God is answering my prayers to make a difference in a life.  I still get teary when I hear someones heart is breaking but that's just the way I'm wired so I push through my emotions and I silently pray for words of comfort and encouragement. The words come.  I never know what their impact will be but I leave that for God to sort out.  I have to pay attention, look past the surface- past age, gender or social standing.  I have to ask Him fill me with a love for others, a love that comes straight from Him so I can see past everything that gets in the way of really seeing the person.  

I remember the people, I remember their pain, I wonder if there has been healing. I continue to ask Him..."break my heart with what breaks Your heart".     

Walking in Love,