It was just a typical day. After dropping off the kiddos at school, I set out to run a few errands.
As usual, I saved Trader Joe’s for last.
It’s kind of my happy place. The beautiful fresh flowers, the friendly employees, the free samples, 20 different kinds of hummus and the assorted cheeses which I’ve never heard of but I’m quite certain I need to try before I leave this earth.
So, there I was with my basket loaded with items which made me feel like some kind of swanky health-nut but, in reality, would probably not be all that handy when it came time to make dinner that night.
I got in line behind a young woman with 2 little boys who were happily picking out their stickers from the giant sticker bin.
Suddenly I noticed that the woman seemed flustered and that the sales transaction had come to a screeching halt.
She began digging through her wallet and then through her pockets and all the while I could physically feel her embarrassment beginning to rise.
“I’m so sorry”, she said. “I don’t seem to have enough money to buy it all.”
After a quick glance at the line of people behind her, she began sorting through the items, selecting which ones she would need to put back.
And at that same exact moment, I felt this stirring in my heart.
I needed to do something.
I HAD to do something.
As I stood there in full awareness of this ‘nudging’ towards action, I watched as the young woman grabbed the two little boys by their hands and led them out the door.
I pushed my cart forward and the cashier began ringing up my items. Glancing down, I noticed the little pile of items she had chosen not to purchase. Or rather, the items she wasn’t able to purchase.
There was that stirring again. A nudging. It came from deep within my soul and I knew that this was one of those defining moments in life.
Pointing to the little pile of items, I asked the cashier to add them to my purchase. And then I asked if there was someone who could hurry out to the parking lot and take them to her.
I didn’t want her to know that they were from me.
The cashier signaled for someone to come over and explained that the bag needed to be taken out to the woman who had just left. Then as we both turned our attention back towards my purchases, our tear-filled eyes met.
She said, “thank you for doing that for her.”
I fumbled over my words for a moment before replying, “I just had to.”
Then I paid for my items and headed out the door towards my car. As I made my way through the parking lot, I glanced around quickly and was relieved that I couldn’t see ‘her’ anywhere.
Just as I was reaching my car I heard a voice yell, “hey!”
I turned to the left and there she was.
“Are you the one who paid for those groceries?” she asked.
I felt pinned in and didn’t want to lie so I simply nodded my head and said, “yes“.
“Thank you so much!” she said.
“Oh, it was really no problem at all.“, I replied.
I smiled at her. She smiled back. We were having a moment.
And then she said,
“I’m the nanny and I was trying to get everything on the list that their mom wanted but she didn’t give me enough cash to cover everything. I really do appreciate you helping though!“
And before I could even think of how to reply, she walked over to a very large, very new, very luxurious SUV, hopped in and drove off.
I stood there stunned for a moment.
She was the nanny? THE NANNY?
You mean, she wasn’t a struggling young mom trying to make ends meet?
You mean, those weren’t even HER kids?
Slowly I loaded my own groceries into my own much older, far more used, not even close to as luxurious SUV, returned the cart to whatever that cart storage thing is called and climbed into my car.
I sat there for a long time. I didn’t know whether to cry or to laugh. So I did a little of both.
How could that have happened?
I felt like I had gotten it all wrong.
And as I sat there in my car, alternating between feeling dumbfounded over the fact that I had just paid a grocery bill for people who were probably a lot more well off than I was and wiping away tears of confusion, I began to question God.
Did I misinterpret the ‘nudging’ and the ‘stirring’ ? I was so convinced, so sure that this young woman truly needed help, MY help, and that I was blessing her by paying for her groceries.
I knew that what I had felt stirring in me was definitely from the Lord.
“But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” John 14:26
So, how could I have totally missed the mark?
You see, at this particular time in my life, I had been experiencing a real sense of being dry in my faith. Stalled. Stale. And when I had listened to the nudging and felt so thrilled that I was able to help someone it felt like a kind of ‘mountaintop’ experience. You know the ones, right? Where you feel like you are on top of the world and it’s just so thrilling and satisfying!
So, to basically fall straight down that mountainside right onto the hard ground left me feeling very defeated.
But, the longer I sat there, the more aware I was of another stirring in my soul. One that led to a very specific question repeatedly running around and around in my head.
What if my paying those groceries had impacted that cashier?
What if it stirred something in the heart of the nanny?
What if it was actually just for my own benefit?
Stay with me here.
During this season of dry-ness in my soul, that nudging was like turning on a faucet and feeling the cool water pour over all of the parched places.
It was the realization that no matter how dry, how parched, how stale I thought my faith had become, because I have accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior, I have been given the great gift of His Spirit living inside me. And that means that below the surface of what felt like a desert, there was ‘living water’.
And, “Whoever believes in me, as scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” John 7:38
What if paying for those groceries was simply God’s way of reminding me that He was there.
He’s there with me on those mountaintops and He’s there with me in the desert.
What if it had less to do with everyone else and more to do with me?
If the nanny was blessed by it? Bonus! If that cashier was blessed by it? Double bonus!
But, at the end of the day I was the one who was really given the biggest blessing of all.
This article originally appeared at At the Picket Fence.