Friday, February 29, 2008

In The Space Of A Few Hours

Yesterday morning on my way to work, I was praying about being led by God's hand, that I would follow his lead willingly and be of use to him as he wanted, not how I wanted. I was asking to help me take myself out of any equation so that he could be the only right answer.

The morning proceeded normally. I ran by Panera's for a continental breakfast for a meeting. I made it to the meeting place in great time. Everything went beautifully, for my part at least. Then I headed back to the office until it was time for me to set up lunch for the group.

I thought I might as well use that time wisely (for me) to swing through the drive-thru at my bank to deposit one of our state refund checks.

While at the window, I turned into a teenager. And I don't mean that I looked youthful and weighed only 85 lbs like I did back then. I mean it in the way that you want to slap some 16 year old silly if they acted that way to you.

When attempting to deposit the check, the teller very politely said, "Mrs. Shalee (she used my last name of course, but I'm not going to advertise it here even though I'm sure you could never find anything about me with such a common name like Shalee...), I'm sorry, but I will need your husband's signature on the check since his name is on the front as well." Really she was as sweet as could be.

Me? I did the biggest eye-roll ever known to man. I'm amazed that I didn't injure myself with the stretching of optic nerves that I did at that moment. It was a fantastic expression of impatience, annoyance and self-pity all in one movement. I'd have slapped myself if I could have seen me.

The teller? She said, "I'm sorry, Mrs. Shalee... I just don't want to make a mistake on a government check."

Do you want to know what brilliant words came from my mouth? "Yeah, yeah, yeah." (Sigh) "I'll be back later after I get his signature. Thank you." And then I took my check and drove off.

My very first thought was, "Well there was a fabulous example to Christ, don't you think, Shalee?" Remembering her name from her tag and I thought, "Sule probably would have preferred to see God and you totally got in the way again, Shalee." And I wanted to park the car and go apologize to her for my rude behavior.

But I didn't. I can be such an idiot sometimes.

I returned to the office to work for a bit, left to set up lunch and then continued on my way to meet with Mr. Right for lunch since I would be driving right by his work. While waiting for the light to turn on the interstate, I noticed a homeless person standing on the median, holding a cardboard sign that said, "Please help me. I'm homeless and anything will help me SURVIVE."

As I waited for that light, I had multiple thoughts run through my mind as I avoided looking at him.
  • I never have money on me.
  • Why is he standing on that corner? He looks completely capable of working.
  • What would cause someone to succumb to panhandling for money?
  • He probably won't use it for what it should be used for...
  • Is he cold?
  • Will this light ever change?
And as I waited for the light to turn green, I actually turned to look at him. He looked downcast, embarrassed to be there, broken, not making eye contact with any of the drivers. And I realized that all of my thoughts were meaningless in the scheme of things. Here was a person asking for help from anyone who would give it.

I quickly pulled out my wallet to see if I had anything to give. And there I found some forgotten Christmas money that I had left over from a recent purchase. I grabbed it quickly, as the light had just changed. I rolled down the window and extended my hand to him and said, "If you'll come quickly, I'd like to help."

Amazed that someone had noticed him, he stumbled for a moment and then ran to the window. He smiled a beautiful smile. "Right on! Oh, thank you! God bless you!" Those were the words I heard as I sped up to make my turn.

Driving down the interstate, I burst out into crying. Was it the loss of the money? Was it that that man was standing there needing help and I was the only one to see him? Was it that this is a broken world that we cannot fix by money alone? Was it because I know that I can behave so badly one moment and then be better the next? I really don't know why I was bawling. It just felt like the right response.

And as I recalled his words, "God bless you!", I realized that he does. Every single day. In ways that surprise me and make me want to know him all the more as he's taking me from a selfish, inconsiderate twit in the morning to a kinder, open-handed person by the afternoon.

It was a direct answer to the prayer I prayed that morning. God took me out of the way and made himself known, at least to one man standing in the middle of the road.

And I have to tell you, I liked losing myself.

I liked it a lot.

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