I hate grocery shopping.
I despise going.
I know that food is essential to life. But it feels like a complete waste of time.
Even with the responsibility of having to shop for a family, I refuse to make a list. It feels too official if I actually make a list.
So I just go. I'm just there.
I start off in produce and go around the whole store using my memory to buy what I think we need. And to make matters worse, I actually convince myself prior to going that it will just be a quick trip, for a few things. Only, as I’m grabbing what we need, the basket ends up full, and I end up mad, because it starts to feel too official when you have a full basket.
It totally robs me robbing me of the disillusionment that makes the whole thing a little bit easier to do.
I usually forget stuff, and have to end up going back another time during the week for everything forgotten. You’d think that with my vehement hatred of grocery shopping, I’d do a list to eliminate having to go again. But I’m not ready to accept that this is a real part of my life. And online grocery shopping is worse, so don’t suggest it. And no, I don’t want to address this in therapy.
So I was in Kroger on one of my weekly grocery missions, dodging from aisle to aisle grabbing things. It started to feel more and more ridiculous the fuller my basket got. And by the time I’d reached frozen foods, my trip was close to over, and I was in no mood for small talk. I was trying to get out of the store before anything else ended up in my basket.
As I opened the freezer door to grab some sweet potato fries, I heard the Holy Spirit speak to me very loud and clear: “RHEUMATOID ARTHRITIS”.
It was so abrupt, and out of nowhere, interjecting into my thoughts, ever so random, having nothing to do with groceries, just blaring, and taking complete authority over any of my scattered thoughts, and anxiousness at the time that I felt like I was wasting.
As I grabbed the package of fries, I turned around in time to see an older lady walking past me with her basket. She was walking quickly, but I could tell that it was slightly labored, and that there was something wrong with her right leg.
I threw the fries in my basket, and softly acknowledged to God that I’d heard him.
Now came the questions: “So God….you want me to say something to her? Like…..you want me to pray for her? Obviously I’m not supposed to leave this alone. You wouldn’t just say something if I wasn’t supposed to say something….Right?”
So as I leaned into acknowledging him, I could feel that I was in fact supposed to say something to her. And I was surprised by the feelings that arose with that.
As I pushed my basket towards her, I started to feel nervous. I thought about how I could be perceived. I wondered what happens next if she says: “NO I ain’t got no rheumatoid arthritis! And you can mind your business!” Lord knows that would be the worst case scenario right? For her to just be loud and belligerent, causing a scene, and embarrassing me. And furthermore, isn’t Rheumatoid Arthritis pretty common? Don’t most elderly people have it at some point or another? It felt pretty surface, and a bit of an easy guess or read.
Then I thought of all the times I’ve prayed for my father, and he isn’t quite healed yet.
Lord……As I thought it over, I felt my anxiety rising. As I let my questions and scenarios play out, I found myself and my basket gliding past her, not saying a word.
I moved on to the popsicles, and tried to keep shopping. But then my prayers started rehearsing in my head. My desires that I’d put before God came back up. I’ve asked for God to use my life as a sign and a wonder. I’ve asked to operate in any gift that will expose him to people. This world is fading away in its belief in God’s existence, not because of a lack of teaching, preaching, or Christianity, but because of a lack of power and demonstration of His Spirit! People can find any path that will convince them NOT to believe in God. They can argue so many points and theories. But few can argue results that come from His spirit and reality being demonstrated by the power that we are given from his spirit. And here he was, right there in the popsicles section, letting me know that I was legitimately punking out because I was worried about what she would think if I was wrong.
So I swung open the freezer door, grabbed a box of chocolate popsicles, and wheeled my basket back over to the frozen vegetables sections where I’d left her.
Only now, there were a bunch of people around.
See, this is why you move the first chance that you get. The first time, it was only she and I.
Now it was the whole entire host of the grocery store standing there to witness the Holy Confrontation.
I walked right over to her, and said:
“Hi Ma’am. May I ask? Do you have Rheumatoid Arthritis.”
She very emphatically, and matter-of-factly responded: “YES! Yes I do!” with a thick Caribbean accent.
Okay, so now that THAT part is out of the way........
With a little bit of new confidence, I said:
“Well, God spoke about you to me, and I’d like to know if I can pray for you.”
And with the same emphatic disposition she responded:
"No not here. But you can pray for me later. My name is Edith.”
So now I’m tickled and trying not to laugh.
Sister Edith was not having me give her this hot fire of the spirit in the middle of the store…..No Ma’am………Chic, you can pray for me at your house while I’m at my house! LOL
So before I could recover from her shutting that prayer session down, she went on to say:
“You know, I’m 70 years old. And I have to work through all of my available sick days at work so that I can save them for my surgery. I’ve already had one surgery on this knee (pointing to the left knee), but I have to save up my time to be off for the surgery for this one. And I shouldn’t even be working, but I don’t have a choice. What can you do? You just have to keep going right? ”
I asked her if she actually wants the surgery. I was trying to gauge if prayer for healing was possible.
She said: “Yes, I want the surgery. I just have to finish saving up my days to get it.”
In that moment I looked her in the eye and felt so much compassion. This woman had been through a lot. I didn’t have to hear her story to know. I felt it. She was tough, but had lived hard. And I felt her weariness, and helplessness. But I felt a strength that only people who have no other choice than to persist have. She was alone. All she had was herself. I felt that.
She went on to say:
“You know………I wish that the world had more people like you. I am surprised that you stopped me. People do not care about anyone. I believe that’s why this world is crazy. I believe that’s why people are shooting up places and killing one another. Nobody cares about anyone, and nobody has certainly ever stopped me. It just doesn’t happen anymore. Thank you. My name is Edith when you decide to pray.”
She was genuinely grateful. Her eyes warmed up, and she looked satisfied.
She did not let me pray for her there. But I now see that was not the mission.
The mission was to heal a belief in the goodness of people, and the goodness of God.
Edith’s healing may rest in the success of her surgery, because that is where she’s applied her faith. But perhaps God was after faith that she’d misplaced or didn’t have at all. Perhaps Edith will need to remember that God randomly speaks to strangers about those who feel forgotten, and even after her surgery is done and over with, real healing will have begun.
The Rheumatoid Arthritis was a gateway into her world and her attention. God knew she had no intentions of letting me pray for it to be healed there in the store. But he knew that without that level of personal knowledge, Edith may never have believed that God sent me…..if for nothing else, but to show her she’s loved.
Say a prayer for Edith tonight.
I either planted, or watered a seed. You can help it increase.