It was around 11:15 at night. I was in one of the only two lines open at Walmart, casually scrolling through some Instagram Stories, when I heard, “Why are you so happy!?” I really wasn’t even sure if the question was directed at me, and I silently hoped it wasn’t because the tone was way more accusatory than inquisitive. When I turned around and saw a sour-faced 40-something lady staring right at me, my hope subsided. I didn’t get a word in before she blurted, “Why do you think you can be so happy standing in this line?”
One moment I was watching 15 seconds of people’s lives on social media, the next I was nearly lambasted for being too happy. In Walmart. Now, I was really wishing that she was trying to make a joke about the long wait and was just extremely bad at it, but even in my wishing, deep down I knew something was about to happen.
It was certainly strange, but when I looked at her – really looked at her – while i tried to form an answer, all I could see was a world of hurt. Suddenly everything shifted. It was still awkward and weird and a little bizarre, but I felt the Lord in that line. I looked around and noticed a few peripheral eyes on me, curious as to where the conversation would go. I also noticed I was probably 12th back in a line that hadn’t moved, so I opened my mouth, mostly unsure of what I was going to say.
“It took a lot of pain,” I began, and I continued to tell her the story of the past two years. I told her honest details and shared my darkest moments with her. I’ve never had someone listen to me that closely. There’s a thing called “whole-body listening” in classrooms, but this was more like whole-spirit listening. Whole-spirit yearning, maybe. When I finished talking, she asked if she could hug me. I didn’t have time to respond. She clung to me like a toddler does a teddy bear. It was spiritual and moving (but let me tell you that it is still awkward to be gripped by a stranger in Walmart at 11:30 pm). She grabbed me by the shoulders, looked me in the eyes, and said, “I served the Lord for 16 years and a year ago He took my son. I’ve been mad at Him ever since. Every day I dare God to make me happy again. Today He finally did it.”
We talked a bit more, paid for our items, and went our separate ways. I don’t know if I’ll ever see her again, and truthfully I don’t even know how to pronounce her name correctly if I did see her. But the most important thing is true: God knows her. He heard her every single time she spoke to Him. She may have been mad at him for 365 days in a row, but she still went to Him. She persistent widow-ed her way back to happiness. In anger, in pain, she kept knocking. And our little meeting in Walmart tonight? It was a little unusual and surprising, but isn’t that often how He works?
So, if you’re like the woman in Walmart who is hurt or mad and have been going to God for what seems like forever with no real change to your situation: keep going. Knock again. Pray again. Sing again. Your answer will come. He will show Himself.
And if you’re like me – you’re not some perfected human, but you’ve gone through some junk and made it to the other side (or are in the process of making it), stay alert. Be the fig tree that has fruit ready for those who are searching. People all around us are crying out for help. It seldom sounds like a nice and gentle, “Excuse me, I’m hurting and I need assistance.” The wounded and unsure are prone to ridiculous tantrums and rigid accusations. So look beyond the harsh words. Pry into that offended heart and look for the buried roots. Find the sorrow that’s been callused over and pour out the Love of God like water to a dried up plant. Speak of His goodness. Share what He’s done in your own life. Tell of His mercies and bring the Light that is Hope to the dark places in people around you.