Standing in line at the grocery store, there was another man in front of me who was silent and would not speak to the young African-American woman behind the register, ringing up his items, despite here attempts to make small talk. The expression on his face was one of disgust. And it was obvious he just wanted to get his groceries and get out of there.
All the while, I am placing my items on the conveyor belt.
Once he's paid, the guy mutters a derogatory and racist word under his breath before walking off.
After he's gone and she begins to ring up my items, I greet her and ask her how her day's going - other than the last few minutes. At first she just shakes her head and I understand that she is doing so because of the previous customer. "Ever since Trump got elected," she finally said, "people feel like it's okay to be racist." I listened as she spoke about how, as an African-American woman who's a part of the LGBT community, she feels like she's not wanted in her very own country. "Churches keep preaching about love," she said, "but they sure aren't living it out. How can you preach love and vote hatred?"
I listened to her and wondered why she trusted to tell me her story about how, after coming out, she was kicked out of the church she grew up in. Her words were filled with pain and brokenness over not being welcomed in her church or her country. "I just don't matter," she said and tears welled up in her eyes.
"Yes you do," I told her. "God loves you enough to give His only Son for you and He loves you enough to have put me in this line right after that last guy to tell you this."
That is the grace of God allowing me to be there in that moment. How many of us are given the opportunities to be light and love to someone who's hurting?
How many would have gotten upset with this woman for expressing her pain to them? Would she have even felt comfortable revealing her woundedness to many?
I don't ask, "Why me?" because I pray that God allow such moments to occur in my daily life as a reminder to not only others, but myself of His unending love for us.
As I am meditating and studying The Spiritual Exercises by Saint Ignatius of Loyola, I find myself praying his words:
Love consists in sharing
what one has
and what one is
with those one loves.
Love ought to show itself in deeds
more than words.
The love of Christ must seize our hearts, our minds, our imaginations, our actions, and our very lives. Part of my prayer life is simply to sit in stillness and silence. With each inhalation of breath, I pray "Fill me with your love" and with each exhalation, I pray, "May I walk in your compassion."
When I pray this, it never fails to amaze me how god puts people in my path with whom I can share and pray and remind them that they are worthy, they are loved, they are treasured, they are desired, that they are why Christ came here and went to the cross. What an amazing gift to get the opportunity to share the everlasting love of God to others on a daily basis. Everlasting love. Love that existed long before we ever did. Has always existed and will always exist. A perfect love.
How many in this world are suffering from the wounds of the imperfect love or lack of love from a parent or partner or spouse and they, in turn, wound others?
Henri Nouwen wrote, "Self-rejection is the greatest enemy of the spiritual life because it contradicts the sacred voice that calls us 'Beloved'."
How many people need to hear they are "beloved" of God? How many need to know how dear and precious they are to the very Creator of all things?
How many people need to know Jehovah Rapha (the God that heals)? Or Jehovah Shammah (God is there)? Or Jehovah Shalom (God of peace)? Or that He's El Roi (the God who sees)? This is the God who collects our tears because our suffering does not go unnoticed. He keeps a record of our pain. This is the God who not only knows us but has our names engraved on His palms. They need to know that God is Yahweh Yireh (God who provides). He provides the healing that we need (physical, spiritual, emotional). He provides comfort, joy, peace, mercy, compassion, love and grace unending.
God allowed me that brief window of time to share with that cashier that she was beloved, that God saw her and the pain she was suffering and had placed me there to lift her up and exhort her.
This world is broken but we can show them the beauty that is the gospel, the good news.
I am beloved of God and when I truly realize this and live it out, then I see others not as strangers or foreigners but as those who are dearly loved by God and so often are completely unaware of this reality. None of us can do anything to earn or deserve it. We are all radically loved by God.
Brennan Manning wrote, "The way you are with others every day, regardless of status, is the true test of faith."
How do we respond to people every day? When we are at work? When we are at the grocery store? Or our kids' schools? Or at the gym? In traffic?
Do we see where we are and who we are with are exactly where He has us and wants us so that we are the light, the grace, the love, the mercy, the compassion of Christ in that moment and it can have a huge impact on someone who may be a complete stranger to us.
We must be aware. We must be present. We must be generous and tender and available. We must be rooted in prayer and scripture and love and forgiveness. These moments with others are not meant to be irritations but invitations to show the love of Christ to someone: a family member, a coworker, a complete stranger. But how can we not? Once we have experienced Divine Grace it awakens us to Divine Love.
I pray that we can move beyond being the body politic and be the body of Christ.
I pray that we stop sounding like CNN or Fox News and sound like the good news, the gospel of Christ because there is a desperate, hurting world that needs us to be.