"Close encounters of the holy kind".
February 12, 2018
Sunday evening usually begins for me the task of looking at the week ahead. I pull out my planner and begin filling in the spaces of my week. This leads then to meal planning; you know trying to accommodate meals to match the schedules. This in turn usually leads me to the grocery store. Alas! The weekend has ended and Monday has begun, all before 6 p.m. on Sunday night. Sound familiar? While I acknowledge that for me this is an important process to keep the stress of a work week at bay, all this planning ahead and planning in, can leave little room for those “divine appointments”. These are the moments when the Divine encounters our space. But sometimes our God has wonderful ways of allowing us to be witness to and learn from others’ divine appointments.
After Sunday’s planning, I headed to the grocery store on Monday. I was hurrying to get in and out so I could get on with the other tasks of the day. In the matter of literally 30 minutes I was witness not once but twice to a “close encounter of the Holy kind”.
Briskly gathering my reusable shopping bags from the back end of my car (it was one of those brutally cold days) I saw from my peripheral vision an older couple who had just parked and got out of their car. A woman, who was parked next to them, had just begun the task of loading her groceries into her car. They exchanged niceties about the weather when the woman, who had just parked, approached her and said, “I’ll take your cart into the store for you”. To which the woman unloading her groceries responded a gracious “sure” and said “I’ll hurry”. These (“do gooders, and I say this with the utmost affection) were not in the least bit concerned about time, and even went so far as to help her get the rest of her groceries into the car. I hurriedly made my way to the entrance of the store to gather the items I needed. Finished and feeling accomplished I once again briskly started off across the parking lot, only to again become aware of an interaction. A store worker was effortlessly and with lively conversation, loading groceries into a customer’s car. As he finished she reached out to place a token of her appreciation into his hand, “a little something for your effort”, she said. “No thanks this is not necessary, it’s what I do”. She insisted, proceeded to thank him again and punctuating the fact that the care and concern he has for everyone and doing his job, did not go unnoticed.
I know I smiled big, as I neared my car and praised God for allowing me to witness this parking lot ministry in action; thankful too for the awareness but feeling a bit humiliated.
As I started my car, I took a quick second to do an “examination of consciousness” and realizing rather quickly that in my own haste I might have missed my own “divine appointments”. I chuckled aloud (rather sarcastically too) at the thought that less than probably 4 hours earlier, in my prayer and reading, I had been prompted with the thought: If your deeds could speak, what statement did you make in the past 24 hours? Whoa 24 hours!! I hadn’t even made it four!! My deeds to that point were all about me!! What I needed to accomplish, what I needed to do – how accomplished I was feeling at checking off my list. God had used some ordinary moments of my day to teach me some extraordinary lessons.
Now please don’t misunderstand, I’m not criticizing list makers or planners, rather what I learned in that thirty minute time span was the need to remain alert and that my prayer must call me to action. I’m grateful to have been witness to these moments of kindness and like to believe that if given the opportunity again that next time I too might respond differently to the nudging of the Holy Spirit. Someone once shared with me that it’s important to plan enough to be prepared, but leave room for the Holy Spirit to enter.
As I enter this season of Lent, I will continue to pray to “remain alert” and then most especially to respond. Mostly I pray not to allow the activities on my calendar to serve only as tasks to be completed and ways for me to feel accomplished, but that they become opportunities to encounter the Holy; and to see that these divine appointments will be my simple attempt to meet God in the work I do every day.