“Help! Help on Aisle 4!”
I heard the voice from a few aisles over. It was a woman, sounding slightly annoyed but not exasperated. Like an employee on a walkie-talkie.
My, the bows and decorations I was looking at were pretty. And how pleasant it was to be strolling along with my cart, all by lonesome on this last weekday morning before school let out for the Thanksgiving holiday.
“Hello?!” she called. Urgency had been summoned into her voice.
I took another sip of my tea. ‘It’s that time of year,’ I thought. ‘We’re all going to start getting uptight.’
But then – I was suddenly shocked by a heavy, greater awareness that no one was coming. In fact, this woman and I might be the only people in this quadrant of the huge store.
My hands let go of the cart and my feet started moving in her direction just as her strongest cry yet rang out.
“Help! Help me, please! Someone help!”
My legs were moving quickly now, and my head felt light. My thoughts jumbled.
‘Am I floating? Is this my body? What’s going on here?’
Many aisles over I saw her, an elderly woman with two enormous storage bins placed on end in her cart, and her finger wedged between them and the metal bars of the collapsible child seat. She couldn’t reach around the bins to relieve their weight, and might not have been strong enough even if she could have. I pulled the bins off and she stared at me with a pale, relieved face.
“Thank you. Oh, thank you.”
“Is it broken? Can you move it?”
She wiggled her finger and massaged the long acrylic nail, which looked a bit twisted.
“Oh, goodness. I don’t know what I would have done if you didn’t come.”
For a moment, I said nothing.
“Are you going to be ok? You can get help loading these into your car.”
“Yes. I’m ok. Happy Easter.”
Then I just smiled.
“Oh! Oh! Gosh,” she laughed faintly, “Happy Thanksgiving.”
“You, too. Happy Thanksgiving.”
I walked away from her with the firm knowledge that I had – just then – been an instrument, and that I could not in any way take credit for what I had done.
Left to my own devices, I would have ignored her call, would have kept on putting decorations for my own future celebrations into my cart.
That’s just how self-absorbed I was. Am. Can be at any time.
But I wasn’t given a choice. I was given a gift of being made ready to serve in His way at His time. And He stepped in and moved me right to the place He wanted me to go.
In this time of Advent, as I await with expectant hope for the joys of Christmas, I want to remember that true gifts are not things – they are found in the giving away of grace that has been given to us. A humble, servant’s heart is what made Christmas possible in the first place, and it’s still the greatest part of this season.
Lord, make me a channel of Your peace. Use me this Advent in the ways You see fit. Use me to give away Your relentless grace.