The inevitable happened today in the Walmart parking lot: grace.
As I walked my groceries to my car, a woman asked, “Can I ask you a question?” She asked the right person; it’s what I do. I listened. She proceeded to tell me a convoluted story, saying she was from Dyersberg and she was so embarrassed and doesn’t do this but… She ran out of gas and needed gas money and included other details that clouded my understanding of her question.
She fidgeted, holding her hand up to block the sun from her eyes. “Other people have looked at me like I was crazy.”
I finished putting my bags in my trunk and looked into her brown eyes, friendly and glassy. I looked into her face, skin beaten by the sun and mouth filled with gaps. She only had one front tooth and I don’t remember seeing any more on the sides. I couldn’t tell if her belly was bloated from pregnancy or malnutrition. My senses were on overload.
Instinctively I asked, “What do you need?”
Walking her to the gas pump with my card wasn’t an option; we were too far away from the pumps. I reached into my wallet amid her continuing words of awkwardness and pulled out the $12 I had left. In the millisecond exchange, I struggled in my mind How can I share God’s grace – my only motive for doing this – to this woman in a few words?
“Jesus is gracious,” I could barely choke out due to the weight of its truth.
“Yes, He is,” she chimed almost flippantly, “I go to St. ______ Church… I’m sorry to bother you, I never do this.”
“No problem. God has been so gracious to me.” To speak with my mouth as I spoke it with my cash-giving hand was to have a refreshed sense of everything God has done for me. So much.
The ability to know Him.
To call Him Father.
To serve Him in as big a way as moving to a foreign country for three years or as small a way as giving some cash.
To have $12 in my wallet after I bought more than what we my family needed for dinner.
To have a husband who will listen about today’s adventure and understand my thoughts more than anyone else on the planet.
To have a cumbersome carseat in my backseat and a toddler napping at home with my mom.
I wanted her to know Him too, but as soon as I closed my trunk she was no where to be seen. She might have been an addict and many of her verbal indicators point to panhandling behavior instead of “I never do this.” In the past I’ve given food to panhandlers instead of money. The last thing I want to do is enable an addict to hurt themselves with their drug of choice. But this situation called for something daring. Being something completely beyond our full comprehension, God’s grace not only protects us from ourselves but also allows us to choose our next steps. I sensed this time I needed to let this woman choose what she was going to do with the $12, without boundary or pressure.
$12 hardly seems comparable to His gift of salvation, having a relationship with the God of the universe, having a purpose on this planet. It’s just a weak shadow. I’m praying that the woman has a deepened understanding of God’s grace as much as she deepened mine today. I pray that grace will undo and constrain us, that we both will lay aside anything that cheats us from fully appreciating Him and follow Him more fully today than we did tomorrow.