Mere Words?

Listening is a problem for me at times.  I hear, but I do not always heed.

One morning several years ago, I challenged God about heeding His instruction.  I had thrown a pork roast in the slow cooker for dinner, and realized I was missing one key ingredient to make a sauce my family loved. I ran a bit late as I prepared for work, but figured I could drive to the market and back, throw my sauce together and still get to work by 8 o’clock.

At the market I walked to the proper aisle, grabbed the ingredient I needed, and strode to the single open checkout lane.  The clerk had just scanned groceries for a young man in jeans and a black windbreaker.  She announced his total and he ran his debit card.  The card terminal beeped a decline.  He swiped his card again – and the terminal beeped again.  The clerk looked beyond the man at me and rolled her eyes under dark eyebrows drawn on in an inverted V.  Her red lips drew tight when the man asked her to put his bag aside and told her he would be right back.  He walked out of the line and pulled his phone from his pocket.  The clerk huffed a sigh.

I stepped up to the clerk and smiled at her.  “Good morning.”  I placed the jar of sauce on the checkout lane shelf.

The clerk picked up my jar, scanned it and uttered the total.  I handed her cash and waited until she placed the change in my hand.

“Thank you,” I said.  “Have a nice day.”

I walked past the young man as he stood beyond the checkout lane.  He held the phone to his ear, but I guessed he was not getting an answer, because he lowered his hand, fidgeted and paced back and forth.  I had a sense that I should pay for his food, but I was in a hurry, so I walked past him.

That little voice in my head said, pay for his groceries, but I continued my hurried steps and reasoned with myself that I was already out of the store.  Dang, guess I missed my opportunity, I thought.  I climbed into my truck, pulled the door shut and turned the key.  The engine hummed to life.  I reached for the shift lever when I heard again, Go. Pay. For. His. Groceries.  It was the voice I had come to know as the Lord’s.

“But I’m late.  And I probably missed my chance.  And I’m gonna look like an idiot going back in there . . .” I argued aloud.  But even as I pleaded my case, I remembered all the times I had asked God to show me where he was working and had asked Him to invite me into His work.

We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us. So we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters.  If someone has enough money to live well and sees a brother or sister in need but shows no compassion – how can God’s love be in that person?

Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions. 1 John 3:16-18

I heaved a sigh.  Sorry, Lord, I thought.  I turned off the engine, swung the door open, slid from my truck and walked back into the store. 

The young man now talked into his phone.  I heard, “She said she put $30 in the account.”  I walked past him to the clerk in the now empty lane.

“May I pay for that man’s groceries?”  I pointed to the young man on his phone. 

Her frown contrasted with the surprised look of her arched brows.  “You want to pay for him?”

“Yes,” I replied and smiled.

She kind of shook her head but rang up the groceries.  She told me the total and I swiped my credit card.  The cashier looked at me with a bewildered expression, then her face softened to nearly a smile.

“You have a great day,” she said.

I smiled and wished her the same.  I lifted the bag with the young man’s groceries, exited the checkout lane and placed it in his hand.

“This is taken care of.  Have a blessed day,” I said.

The young man, still on the phone, stared at me with his mouth agape.  I quickly walked off, feeling a little embarrassed.

I left the store, climbed back into my truck and drove home later than I had anticipated.  I thought of the change in the expressions of the clerk and the young man, and the words that trailed off as I walked away.  “You’re not gonna believe this . . .”  A smile creased my face.

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