It seems God is calling me to be a cash-register witness.
Having said that, I have to admit that I prefer to shop online because the service is generally more knowledgeable and friendly than the majority of retail stores. The search engine can always find the item I'm looking for and it knows when something is on sale or not. The online shopping carts move along as fast as I can process their commands. So when I do venture into a brick-and-mortar store, I'm nearly always tested. Will I return kindness for surliness? Will I return patience for incompetence? Will I be gracious to a fellow human being who may not be a native speaker (in the D.C. area, at least), who probably didn't receive much training, and who has been the brunt of others' anger and impatience for the previous six hours? Over the last few years, I've felt the Holy Spirit's check when I've been tempted to be unkind to retail clerks. And though I've not always responded obediently, He has been faithful to remind me in each instance.
Earlier this year, as I was waiting on my purchase to be rung up, I felt the Lord was highlighting the clerk to me. I don't mean with a physical spotlight. I mean that sensation of being impressed to look and really notice another person. The thought came to mind that this woman had been wondering if God was real. I sensed the Holy Spirit wanted me to share this impression with her and give her a invitation to my church. As she slowly rang up the items, I felt a nervous adrenaline surge as I contemplated how silly I would look. But no one was waiting in line behind me and thus I had no excuse to dismiss this prompting. When she handed me my receipt, I smiled and told her I had the impression she had been wondering if God was real. I assured her He was and that He was mindful of her, and offered her an invitation to an outreach event at my church where she could learn more. She was hard to read. She didn't smile or frown. She mumbled thanks and turned away. I thought I detected a jolt of surprise in her eyes, but I didn't linger to ask further questions. Exhaling, I headed for the door.
As I loaded my packages in my car, I realized I'd left my sunglasses in the store. It was now after closing time, so I had to walk back to the store and bang on the door. Great. Crazy Church Lady, Part Two. She came to the door with a smile and handed me my glasses. I made a joke about it and left. It wasn't a gospel presentation at all, but I hoped I had planted a small seed and that the Lord would give the growth in the future.
Fast forward to this week and I'm in the same store again. Much to my dismay, that clerk is not there. And this time I'm returning clothes. It's a vexing process because the tags don't seem to be matching the receipt. Then the clerk announces that two pairs of pants aren't on the receipt. She insists that I must have purchased those items separately, but I knew I hadn't. Eventually it becomes clear to both of us that the previous clerk hadn't rung them up before putting them in the bag.
"Are you sure you just don't want to keep them?" she asked. "That's what most people would do."
"Well, no. I didn't pay for them. And even if I had, I still would want to return them," I replied.
"I can't believe it. There aren't many people who would be so honest. You're a good person," she stated.
"Well, thanks for your kind comments," I said, wincing as I felt the proverbial poke in the ribs from the Holy Spirit. I cleared my throat and started again. "But really it's what the Lord Jesus Christ would want me to do. I want to reflect well on Him because of His mercy to me."
"Yeah, well, like I said, most people would keep the free stuff," she reiterated as I dug around in my purse looking for a church invitation. Nothing. Rats. That's what I get for switching purses at the last minute.
"God is looking out for you; this is just a small expression of His care for you," I said with a smile as the next woman began loading her purchases on the counter in front of me--her cue that I needed to move on. In gratitude, the clerk gave me a special discount coupon for my next purchase.
Tonight, another test. I needed shoes for an event this weekend and didn't have much time to shop. I entered the store praying, asking the Lord to help me. I'm serious. Some shoe fashions just aren't compatible with women "of a certain age," as the French say--the medical bills for tortured feet and lower backs aren't worth it anymore. I'm not ready for orthopedic shoes, but I'm getting too old (too smart?) to think it doesn't matter what I'm doing to my body when I'm walking around cantilevered at odd angles on squished toes. And God was faithful to answer my prayer. I spotted the perfect boots within five minutes.
With my gift certificate in hand, I stood in line with my selection waiting for my turn. The clerk seemed distracted but I didn't think much of it until I checked my receipt on the way out the door. Even with the gift certificate, $12 seemed too low for a pair of boots and several pairs of cashmere socks. Sure enough, the boots weren't on the receipt. It's an epidemic! For a split second, I was tempted to walk on out that door. It wasn't my fault the boots were free. But the Hound of Heaven would have nothing of it. Back I went. There was a long line at the register. Of course.
"I'm sorry," I said to the clerk. "But it appears that you neglected to ring up my boots."
Everyone in line was staring at me. So was the clerk. She didn't react immediately. "Do you think you could fix that for me?" I asked.
"Honey, that is something else," said the customer at the head of the line. "You did good."
"Thank you, but it's what the Lord Jesus Christ would want me to do. I want to honor Him, especially because of all He has done for me, " I said, the words coming much easier with the increased practice of late . . .