Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Lessons in the WalMart Parking Lot

In a devotional I read several weeks ago, these questions were asked: 
  • When have you been suddenly and unexpectedly aware of the presence of Christ? 
  • What effect did the experience have on you?
I've known the presence of Christ in worship settings, alone with him in nature, with family or friends, and as part of various ministry projects, and such experiences have always humbled me to the core, but I experienced his presence in a way yesterday that reminded me once again of the way we reveal and reflect Christ to others. Yet this time, it wasn't because of something I did, but rather because of ministry and service done for me. 

My shopping cart was loaded down when I turned into the checkout stand at WalMart. And although I had all the purchases in the buggy to begin with, after I checked out, the stuff wouldn't fit back in. Even though the cashier and I rearranged things three times, I had to have an additional cart to get the junk out to the car. (Can you tell I put off going to WalMart until it's absolutely necessary?!)

Anyway, as I began to attempt to maneuver two carts out the front of the store (pushing one and pulling the other behind me), a soft voice asked if she could help push one of the carts. Her son, she said, could push their cart, and she could help with one of mine. Every fiber of my being within insisted (like a 3 year old child), "No, I can do it!" But that was when the presence of Christ stepped in. The Holy Spirit gave me a moment to step outside myself and see how ridiculous I looked, and then gently humbled me to acknowledge that I needed and could use the help offered. 

In truth, I sometimes don't ask for or receive help because I'm afraid of inconveniencing others, or I'm afraid that if they help this time, they'll feel taken advantage of and refuse to help when I really need it. But how foolish is it to refuse help when it's offered, initiated by the other party?

For me, Christ's presence saturated the situation, and the experience forced me to reflect on three things. First, in her gracious offer to help. She didn't know where I'd parked; it might have meant a hike to the far edges of the lot. But like Jesus' instruction in Matthew 5, she was willing to go an extra mile. Secondly, I was forced to ask myself, "How often do I let someone else struggle simply because I don't think I have time to help or even worse, don't care to help?" Finally, I recognized the presence of Christ in my own (however reluctant) willingness to humble myself and receive assistance. Philippians 2:8 tells us Jesus "humbled himself." He didn't wait for someone else to do it for him. He chose humilty; I should, too. 

I sincerely didn't want to inconvenience the woman, even though she had offered. As crazy as it sounds, it was a spiritual moment for me when, after we got to my car, she walked to hers directly behind mine. Further evidence that I serve a God who can handle the smallest and greatest logistics of life. 

So, Lord, please bless that lady, whoever she was, for suddenly and unexpectedly helping me experience your humbling presence - even in the WalMart parking lot.

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