This event happened several years ago, but it’s one of my favorite reminders God’s character. And it is also a reminder of how much we need the wise counsel of others when we write our own wrong story (Proverbs 13:20).
I hurried into the grocery store to get just a couple of things. The name of the game was get in and get out as quickly as possible.
I zipped through the store quickly and then made a bee-line for our final item: Bread. As I stretched my body upward to reach the top shelf, I heard the voice of an older woman. She advised, “That same loaf of bread is cheaper at the health food store down the road.”
As I came off my tippy toes, loaf in hand, I met her gaze and said in agreement, “Oh, yes, I often shop there and would have gone today, but I’m in a hurry.”
Then the gray-haired woman, whose years creased her face, launched into a lengthy discussion on foods that wreak havoc on her body, and which authors, doctors and health coaches she follows to increase her knowledge about wellness and nutrition. And what she has learned from each of them.
So much for being in a hurry.
As she spoke, I agreed with and understood every word she said. I knew and respected every obscure author, doctor and health coach she mentioned. I held the same food industry conspiracy theories. I had a lot of the same dietary restrictions. She and I held the same opinions on the American diet. It was like a me talking to a future me.
But, I quickly realized something else about this sweet woman.
She seemed mentally unbalanced. And I don’t mean that in a flippant, derogatory manner. I could tell she was not of sound mind.
As she continued talking, I was sure she’d exhausted every family member and friend she’s ever had. I imagined they stopped answering the phone when they saw it was her calling. And I imagined her world was quite lonely.
As she kept talking, I had my own internal conversation. I thought, “God is telling you you’re crazy and this is how you will be in 30 years – spouting off your ideas, research and theories to anyone who will listen in the grocery store.”
Yep, that’s surely where I’m headed.
And so I stayed and listened to this woman because that’s what I’ll want someone to do for me someday.
After about 20 minutes, the woman was ready to move on, so we said our good-byes. For the rest of the day, my heart was heavy. I believed that God revealed this woman to me as a projection – a warning of what I would become.
To say I was downcast at this assumed chiding is an understatement. I was grieved.
A few days later I had some women over to my house for Bible study. As we were talking, I brought up my encounter with the woman at the grocery store. I told them my conclusion: All this happened so God could show me my Ghost of Christmas Future – a crazy woman who seeks conversations with anyone who will listen.
One of the women had another conclusion. She said with authority, “I don’t see it that way at all. God brought that woman to you because He loves her immensely. He knew she needed someone to talk to and He chose you because you understand her interests. He trusted you to let her get all of her words out and be filled up by human interaction. This was all about God showing her love and trusting you with this precious woman.”
Wait. What? So that whole exchange wasn’t all about me?
As soon as she spoke these words, my heart knew they were true.
I had been too narrow and self-focused in what I chose to believe about the encounter with that sweet woman. I wrote a wrong story of what God was doing that day. I needed the wisdom of my friend to come in and speak truth into the situation. I’m so thankful for her boldness and her years of faithfully following Jesus as she could speak with authority about His character and call out deception.
That day on the bread aisle was not a chiding or a condemnation, but a privilege. A holy privilege that I almost missed.
We need other faithful believers to speak into our conclusions and what God thinks of us. I’m sure most of us have it – have Him – wrong. He is not an accuser, but the God who is trying desperately to give us even a glimpse of His unending love for us.
In the years since the encounter with this woman, I’ve seen her several times at health food stores. Each time I try to catch her gaze to reconnect with her, but she looks right through me. She doesn’t remember me or the lengthy conversation we had.
But all the same, every single time I see her face I’m reminded of how much God loves and cares for each of His children. How extravagantly sweet He is towards them. And how much fun it is to be a part of His plan.