Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Delayed Departure

With just five minutes left till the end of my shift at the grocery store, I had already clocked out mentally for the day. I spent my last moments on the job dreaming about what I would eat when I got home, which family members were likely to be there, and how I'd spend the next couple of hours before once again climbing into bed. Suddenly my manager appeared beside me with a question that made my heart drop to the bottom of my empty stomach. "Would you stay a little longer and work on the reshop?" she asked.

"Reshop" is grocery store lingo for the items that are taken off the shelves but that for some reason don't make it out of the building. They are products picked up by shoppers in one aisle and later discarded in another, or that the customer has changed his mind about purchasing by the time they reach the checkout line. The groceries that have to be removed from an order because the total on the screen eclipses the amount of money in the person's wallet fall into this category, as do the bags of purchased goods that are inadvertently left at registers and any items that are found to be damaged in some way. Such goods are collected throughout the day by managers walking the store and by front-end employees who gather it from the bins under each register and load it all into carts that are pushed into a corner. All day long various employees work on sorting the items and returning them to their proper locations, but if nobody else has time to get to it before hand, it's the night cashier's job to put it all away. There's a standing rule that all such displaced items have to be taken care of by the time the store manager arrives for work at the start of the next day.

"Would you stay?" With a sigh I turned off my light, closed down the register and headed to where three grocery carts were loaded and awaiting my attention. But as I approached the one closest to me I noticed that placed right on top of the pile of packages was a small, white business card with just three words printed in black lettering that read, "GOD LOVES ME." I picked it up in amazement, wondering who had placed it there so carefully that it hadn't slipped between the jumbled boxes and bags below it but sat squarely in th front of the cart, waiting for me to find it. Suddenly I burst out laughing as I realized that my staying late was not due to a managerial request at all but was rather a set-up from God who had a message He wanted to deliver, an answer to a prayer I'd been praying for some time.

The Bible tells us to always be ready to give an answer to those who ask us about the hope that is in us (1 Peter 3:15), yet my efforts to do so at work have often been a dismal failure. The words that come out of my mouth sound stilted and awkward, or else my explanation becomes too long-winded to go into on company time. I'd asked God to help me give a simple response when asked about the joy inside of me, or how I stay positive in negative times. And He did so in just three words:
God loves me. Truly the day those words moved from what I knew in my head to what I believed in my heart, my life changed forever. These then were the words I needed to share.

It was significant that God even printed them on a pocket-sized piece of paper, as my pants pockets are normally filled with items to give away. I carry loose change for shoppers who are a few cents short so they don't have to run to their cars and raid their dashboard stash. When people ask me where I go to church or how to get to the food pantry that operates out of it, I reach in and pull out a business card with the church's name, location and service times on it. Now I likewise have an easy yet powerful answer to the other questions I hear repeatedly, coming in contact with the public on a daily basis as I do. I slipped the card in my pocket and went on about the job of putting misplaced grocery items away.

A few days later God took me back to that incident at the grocery store and likened the situation to the end-time events we are now experiencing. As the clock on this world winds down, we Christians are more than ready to go Home. We eagerly anticipate the Marriage Supper of the Lamb and emotional reunions with loved ones who have gone on before us. Heaven fills our thoughts as we wonder what it will look like, who we will see and what we will do. And in the midst of our speculation, our Master appears beside us and reminds us that there is still work to be done. Daily we come into contact with people as numerous as the reshop items in my grocery carts, who are likewise misplaced in their spiritual experience and in their relationship with God. Some once stood solidly in God's Kingdom but somehow fell off their feet, off the wagon, or out of the loop, and now can't seem to find their way back. Others have been damaged by the life experiences they've been through, while still others feel lonely, forgotten and rejected by all. Each of them needs a personal interaction with one of God's workers who has had his heart and his life (and maybe even his pants pockets) filled with the love and gifts of God to give away - the very words and actions that might restore one who was hurt or lost in time to join us when we're all suddenly called away.

We often hear the expression "if Jesus should tarry" in discussions on the end of the age, yet the Bible tells us that even Christ doesn't know the day or hour of His return (Matthew 24:36). The Biblical timeline rests solely in God's hands, and end-time events will unfold at His command. So if there seems to be a delay, perhaps it's due to the mercy and compassion of a loving Father who is asking those in His employ if they will stay a little longer at this, the end of days, and work toward the hope that a few more lost souls will yet find their way.

"The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance."
(2 Peter 3:9 NKJV)

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...