It was a mundane run for groceries. Just a few essentials; Pasta, bananas, raspberry dark chocolate bar…
The clerk seemed efficient, quiet and attentive.
“How are you? she asked, grabbing the candy bar to scan.
I rifled through my wallet to find my card. Then I remembered, ‘practice the presence of people.’ I had been reading a book by that title, and it suggested being present in the space of others. Did that mean the check out clerk, who at the moment was scanning the bulk oatmeal? Yes, actually. Moments had transpired, nearly too long for a response, but I decided to go for it. I got eye contact, leaned forward and smiled, “and you?”
She seemed startled, and then a thin smile curled on her lips.
“Life is good,” she said. Her words were a wistful cadence, like a sonnet spoken over a damp morning meadow. It suggested far more than a pithy three words response. So, I probed. It wasn’t long before she was chatting.
“Clean bill of health this week,” she began. “Back in 2012 I was diagnosed at stage four, even had gotten into the liver.” Now she had stopped her bagging. I sensed that she wanted, needed to tell me more.
“No surgery, no radiation—that’s it, I’m cancer free; it’s like a miracle.” The others behind me stared. During our discourse, she held onto a can of refried beans, and seemed to look beyond me. The holy moment, in the presence of a story like that, seemed to demand we honor the God behind her story. No one complained, just gawked, or pretended to look at the .25 cent chocolate nibbles on sale.
“I believe it is a miracle,” I began. “Our fourth child was born with a damaged heart. The specialist said it would take several operations to fix. We had friends praying, and when he was transferred to another hospital, I remember the doctor saying, ““Nurse, get me the right ex-rays for the Young baby.”” ““You have them,”” she rejoined, with an edge to her voice. In that moment we had discovered that God had healed our new born son!”
“The hairs on my neck are standing up,” she laughed, throwing her head back letting her hair swoosh about freely, forgetting that she still had to scan the remaining groceries. We looked at one another, and with no words needed, agreed that God is in the business of miracles.
“I’m so grateful,” she said.
“So am I.”
With that benediction I picked up the paper bag, but I didn’t want to leave. I wanted church to somehow continue, but the mundane requires that our feet walk on. Heading to the car, I reviewed my encounter. Two strangers had met at a check out line, and discovered that they held similar stories. For both, God had left eternity for the briefest of moments, to show a startled doctor, and a grateful woman what He is capable of doing. Yet, in some small way, another miracle happened as the groceries finally made their way across the scanner. Two people had noticed in the eyes of the other the secret of a fantastic story, which had defied logic, turned skepticism into awe, and in the end had lifted astonishment into the hearts of curious onlookers. Jesus said, “if I am lifted up, I will draw all men to myself.”
How I often miss what God has designed, because I forget the mundane works to my favor.
All I have to do is be present, and initiate.