There used to be a running joke: How does God talk to poor people? “Attention Wal-Mart shoppers…” Growing up in Arkansas Wal-Mart was a staple for daily life. You didn’t need to have company over, just head to Wal-Mart and you were sure to bump into a half a dozen people that you knew. You could have your visit and didn’t even have to clean the living room.
“I didn’t, however, expect God to catch me in the parking lot in the form of a little old man.”
A few months ago my husband, daughter and I returned to the United States after living in Europe for a time. I have to admit that getting back to a land with Wal-Marts was pretty exciting. Of course it wasn’t Wal-mart itself that I was looking forward to but merely the convenience of shopping and I must admit that I love being able to stop in real quick to pick up what I need. So this morning, I didn’t think twice about pulling in to pick up food for our furry babies. I didn’t, however, expect God to catch me in the parking lot in the form of a little old man.
As I was walking across the parking lot out paths crossed and he said “Good morning.” I smiled and greeted him with the same. This was the brand new Wal-mart in our neighborhood so he said “I really like this Wal-mart.” I stopped and responded with some (what I thought) would be a quick passing retort but I heard my little voice. You know the one that whispers “you need to stop and let him talk.” Forty minutes later we shook hands and parted ways.
We went through a gauntlet of topics from his military experience, his cooking group, gardening in the area where we live (and the challenges of it), a lady friend that he helps because she has medical issues and all the while that he was sharing I started hearing an almost audible voice in my head saying “ask him about Jesus. Ask him if he knows me. Im testing you.”
I should explain that about an hour before I had a talk with my daughter as I was dropping her off at school. Every morning before she leaves the vehicle, I place my hand on her and pray over her and her day. On this morning I sensed something was wrong and she shared that she’s embarrassed by my praying over her. She was afraid that one of her friends would walk by and see, perhaps she would get made fun of or kids would give her a hard time about her faith. We talked about that it can be hard to be a Christian. Sometimes we have to face those who question our beliefs or who don’t understand but ultimately, those around us will not determine our eternity. Christ will.
Mark 8:38 tells us that “For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him the Son of Man also will be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.”
Those are tough words to an eleven year old facing peer pressure (especially when kids can be harsh). Now I had to hear my own words as I was standing in front of this man, whom I will most likely never see again, and realize that it’s not always easy to ask someone if they know Jesus or even mention His name. As he spoke about the things that he does to help take care of his friend, I told him “that’s selfless sacrifice and that that’s what Jesus did for us. “ It was like I felt a whoosh of relief and Christ saying “that’s a start.” My parking lot friend was receptive to my comment, we spoke a little longer then we both had to be on our separate ways.
I left him not feeling proud of myself but more of a sense that I had passed a little test and was clearly reminded that being bold in faith isn’t always easy. Oh it’s easy to preach to friends and family who know our faith or who have similar beliefs but it’s a totally different experience to have the courage to mention Christ to a stranger. Today was a reminder that while I am not be embarrassed about Christ, that wont automatically make witnessing effortless but it’s essential that I work on being able to step out of my comfort zone if I expect to teach my daughter to do the same. In the end, I just have to keep reminding myself of Isaiah 55:11 “So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; It will not return to Me empty, Without accomplishing what I desire, And without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.” If we use our speech in a manner that allows Christ to be glorified and exemplified through us, it will not return empty.