381: God of the Dramatic Pause
A recent Saturday morning found me standing in a checkout line at Michael’s to buy picture frames. In the line to my left, an elderly woman and her daughter learned from the cashier that their 40% off coupon didn’t apply to a Ghiradelli chocolate bar. I assumed it was an expensive piece of candy, as the crestfallen lady decided not to purchase the only item she had come to the store to purchase.
There was fine print on the coupon, indignation in her daughter’s voice, and resignation in her slow walk out the front door. It made me sad. I walked out of the store quietly to the next of multiple errand stops.
Part way through the morning, something or Someone told me, “You should buy that lady that chocolate bar.” Mind you, this was after I had left the shopping center. I didn’t know either of the women’s names, let alone any contact information. The only clue I had was the Best Buy shirt the daughter had been wearing.
That afternoon, I drove back to the shopping center and bought what I thought was the same Ghiradelli bar. I was shocked to learn the price tag was something like $3. “That means they drove all the way here, and $1.20 kept her from buying something she really wanted,” I thought.
I talked to God about his prompting. I don’t remember what I told him or asked, as I walked from Michael’s to Best Buy.
One of the Best Buy floor reps knew me from church and asked how he could help. “Does a middle-aged blonde woman work here?” I asked.
“Uh, two, actually,” he replied. One in appliances, one in TVs. Nervous, I walked toward the wall of big screens and in the aisles of that section. No woman in a blue shirt. I walked through the appliance section. No woman there, either.
I found another employee and explained my search criteria. She told me two names I can’t remember and said both would probably be in appliances and that one should be getting off break soon. I walked through the appliance aisles again. I was thinking, “God, you told me to do this.”
When I was about to give up on the search, a woman walked out from a door onto the sales floor. She was the daughter, for sure. I knew the next moment would be extremely awkward, but it was an assignment.
“Ma’am, I think your mom wanted this,” I explained while handing the chocolate bar to her.
“I think your mom wanted this.”
Her face was asking more questions than she voiced. She held the chocolate bar out in front of her as though she didn’t want to accept it.
I stammered, “Jesus loves you,” before dipping my head and walking away. I thought it would be better to leave the backstory a mystery. I sensed that she stood in place and watched me walk out—probably still perplexed. The heavens didn’t open. I didn’t hear Jesus say anything. I just felt lighter. My face cracked in a smile for the mission accomplished.
I tell you this story because of the realization that hit me: God delayed his prompting to get the most glory out of the deal.
Anybody would’ve done what I did. No special points for me. But if anyone had offered the old lady and her daughter to pay for the chocolate bar at the register, the offer would’ve probably been declined—out of principle or pride. Even if the women had accepted, it would’ve been seen as an everyday common courtesy. We do live in the South, after all.
But think about what Jesus gets out of the deal, when a stranger walks up to you and offers you the exact candy your mom had wanted earlier that day! Imagine what God could do, when she told her mom that story with, “And then he told me, ‘Jesus loves you.’” I guess you can see it as artificial serendipity or even religious manipulation. The American church deserves that skepticism.
For me, though, it comes back to the prompting. That idea didn’t blossom beyond pity until after it could surpass a common courtesy. The voice in my head was mute until it came with Jesus’ name. It became a holy caper, a fun assignment only after God could turn the episode into something greater. When I joined God’s narrative, I got a story; and he got a little extra glory.
I would act surprised that he orchestrated that, but isn’t that the reason we’re on this planet?