Thursday, March 4, 2010

Glove Lost, Purpose Found

The automatic door opened and the wintry weather carried a host of shoppers into the store in its icy blast. Most hesitated a moment at the entrance, removing hats, stashing gloves in pockets, and unzipping coats before grabbing their shopping lists and heading down the aisles. The situation then reversed itself once their passage through the checkout lane was completed, as they donned their winter garb and prepared to head out into the cold once more.

The process seemed to take longer than usual for one elderly female shopper who came through my line on that recent winter's day. Her order processed without problem, I was surprised to see her lingering in my lane, fumbling in her pockets and looking about her with a worried look on her face. Eventually she asked if I'd seen her missing red glove. There was no sign of it at the register, so she reluctantly moved off in the direction of the exit door. People leave belongings behind on a regular basis, and I thought to myself that this missing item was likewise no big deal - she'd either find it somewhere or get herself another pair. But instead of leaving the building, the woman remained in sight, circling the checkout area, her face registering her concern. The next time I saw her she told me she had repeatedly walked the whole store, retracing her steps to see if she might have dropped it anywhere. Finally realizing that there was more to her troubled heart than just a lost item of clothing, I listened as she told me the gloves were a gift from her sister who had since passed on. In her view they were simply irreplaceable.

Suddenly there was a heart connection to her problem that got my attention, and I started looking for that glove almost as determinedly as she. I looked through her grocery bags in case she had accidentally dropped it in one, and gently urged her to check her coat pockets one more time. Then I circled my register a couple of times myself, my eyes scanning all the nooks and crannies on the floor where an item might have been dropped and inadvertently kicked out of sight. No luck. I urged her to leave her name and number at the front desk so the store could contact her if it was found and turned in. Despondent, she turned to go and I went back to work physically, although my mind stayed on that woman and her distress over the missing connection with her departed sis.

A short time later I found myself with a few minutes to spare while there was nobody in my line. And suddenly I realized that while I could do little else to help her, I could pray. In recent weeks God had been building my faith with many answered prayers, and I firmly believed He would show up in this situation, as well. So I lifted a simple request in faith, affirming my belief that He knew where the missing glove was and asking that He direct her to it. And then I smiled to myself as I realized it was just the sort of situation He specializes in, after all - finding that which is lost and healing broken hearts! I went looking for my next customer, thinking the case was closed.

Not so, for ten minutes or so later my white-haired friend was back, a huge grin splitting her face and her hand madly flapping a red glove in my direction!

"I found it! I found it!" she called. Apparently she'd decided to take one more tour around the store and found the glove at last, lying on the edge of the meat counter where someone must have put it after running across it. We rejoiced together and then I watched as she finally exited the store, her step lighter and her heart happy once more.

I expected God to find her lost glove, but as usual He did more than that. It turned out that more than just a glove was missing. I had clearly lost my focus on why I stand behind that register in the first place. Surely it isn't just to earn a paycheck, scan some groceries and pass the time of day with a host of friendly patrons. He reminded me that He places me in all the situations I find myself each day deliberately, simply to be a conduit through which His love flows to the people around me. But when I get my eyes too tied to the physical nature of my surroundings, I lose sight of the heart connection to people that God feels and my spiritual awareness vanishes completely. I was ready to hurry that woman out of the store, her problem less pressing than processing my next customer's order. Yet God stopped, His heart touched by the trouble in hers. Surely I'm not busier than He. I needed the reminder to be about my Father's business even in my place of business, as well as in my home, my car... and in all the hidden corners of my life where His desires might have been dropped and absently kicked out of sight by the seemingly more pressing problems of the day.

I worked the rest of that day with a totally different attitude after bumping into God's presence that morning. Who knows but that God sent that woman to the store not for groceries, but for me... to get my thought life back on track. I'm just sorry she had to circle the store as many times as she did before I got the message! She may have found her lost glove, but I found my missing purpose. It's hard to say which of us was happier with the end result.

"Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep."
(Romans 12:15 NKJV)

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