Of Bumpy Jelly Beans, Algebra, U2 and Parking Lots
That should at least make you wonder, right? I went in search of Nerd Jelly Beans on Tuesday. I was hoping that I could find some on clearance. How I arrived there, and the events that transpired because of the trip,moved me to add to my blog today.
You see I was at the alternative school at my usual time, 9:00 a.m. I was planning on working with my usual student. Last week when I went the teacher was gone and so my student was in a different class room. My helping him wouldn’t work so I just headed back to the office. This week I was informed that they were changing things up, my student was going to be working with a different teacher on his math and so everything would be different these last few weeks of school.
I had a decision to make. Do I try to keep working with my student, find someone else, or just bail and say my work here is done, see you next year. What made this even more interesting is that I really didn’t want to go tutor that morning. I had this internal debate in front of the mirror as I did my hair. I have so much going on. I have a lot to get done before the Pepperdine Lectureships next week. It would have been so easy to just skip tutoring, but I couldn’t. I have a responsibility. They didn’t ask me to take it on, I volunteered. I know in these situations the importance of being consistent. Caring enough to show up is half the battle, so I went. They need to know that I care and that I won’t just bail. I made a commitment.
So I was only there after a lengthy mental battle over responsibility and now this. What to do? They were giving me the out I sought. New teacher, new program, he has been handed over to better hands. Here is what made it all interesting and changed the trajectory of my day. While we discussed my options I noticed that the young lady in the back row was eating green Nerd Jelly Beans. My wife loves Nerd Jelly Beans. This event made me think, “I wonder if Walmart has any Nerd Jelly Beans on clearance? I should go and check after I am done tutoring.
Sorry, that is just how my brain works. So, I decided to stick with my math student, to dive in to some Algebra, scary stuff for me, and keep on keeping on until the school year ends.
Upon finishing our time together, math shouldn’t have letters, just saying, I headed out to Walmart. This is when, for me, it all gets interesting. Did I mention this is going to be a ramble? It got interesting when I arrived in the Walmart parking lot. You see I decided to wear a T-Shirt that day. I don’t like to dress up but Monday at work a woman mistook me for a vagrant and so I decided that while I wanted a t-shirt to wear, I needed one that was a bit nicer. An upgrade. Now for me nicer means something that connects to my line of work, so I’m throwing in a picture of the shirt.
I made this shirt several years ago before we went to see U2 in concert. I just thought it worked for the concert and besides we had used their song “One” for our theme at the church that year. So I have this shirt that says “Love Revolution” because of U2. I know, if you thought this story was going to get less random you will be disappointed.
I have worn this shirt many times but I can’t remember anyone ever commenting on it until Tuesday. Someone at the Opportunity school asked about it but that was only the beginning. It happened in the Walmart parking lot. I am walking along and this guy looks at me and we make eye contact. You know the kind of contact I’m talking about. The kind that has familiarity wrapped within it? The, ‘don’t I know you’ kind of look.
So he looks at me like I know him and I look at him like, I don’t know you so why are you looking at me like you knows me? I didn’t want to be rude so I looked at him again and he smiled. Then he approaches me and he does it. He asks me about my shirt.
“What does it say?”
My response, “Love Revolution.”
“Does that mean you are you a Christian?” he asks.
“Yes, I’m a follower of Jesus,” because the word carries so much baggage and I like to over complicate everything.
“I thought so.”
We then have a conversation in the entrance of Walmart. He tells me he likes my shirt and I tell him I like his bandanna. At some point we discuss me giving him the shirt and I let him know that that is probably a bad idea since that would leave me walking around Walmart without a shirt. Not a sight anyone wants to see, certainly not me. I can see the headline now, “Local Preacher Arrested Walking Around Shirtless in Walmart.” Not good at all. We then discuss trading the bandanna for the shirt, but we agree that still leave us with me walking around Walmart without a shirtless. I didn’t think adding an orange and black bandanna would solve anything.
At this point we moved further into the Walmart discussing our mutual faith. He told me about several experiences he had as a security guard at a City Market in Grand Junction where people have given him a word from the Lord. As we were finishing our conversation I noticed a woman pass by. I don’t know what it was but something about her gave me pause.
I finished the conversation with my new friend and set out to find some Nerd Jelly Beans. They didn’t have any. None. Not one bag and I know because I searched everywhere in Walmart. This search of course brought me by the same woman several times. This is when it hit me. Something inside me told me I needed to approach the woman and tell her I was praying for her. All I could think was really? This seems oh so familiar. Like my failure in the airport in Denver.
I know it was similar because all of the same thoughts and emotions came to mind. “She is going to think you’re a stocker.” “As a man and minister you do not approach young women unannounced, it doesn’t look good.” Then there was the one where she calls the cops or security or she sprays me with mace. All of this is rushing through my brain. Approaching this woman is a bad idea and whose to say that this thought is from the Lord?
But I waited this time. I didn’t talk myself out of the conversation. I decided that I was going to do whatever it took to tell her I would pray for her. Just let her know and be on my way. So I waited as she checked out. It turned out that I knew the woman in front of her in line. Maybe that is the real reason I am in line, to say high to her…. No, I was not deterred. She paid for her items and headed to the restroom. Restroom? Seriously? Now I am going to look like a stocker. I can’t believe it, but I still wait by the exit. I stood there feeling strange, like someone who needed a restraining order but it didn’t matter.
She came out of the restroom and for a moment I missed her because I wasn’t paying attention. But I could tell it was her because of she had a very unique bag. She then headed the other way. I was planted firmly to engage her as she passed but she headed for the other door. At this point I am all in. I didn’t follow her thought, instead I headed out my exit so that I could meet her on the other side.
She was crossing into the parking lot when I arrived. And so I ignored the voices that told me what could happen, mace spray and all, and I said “excuse me.”
She immediately looked over. Not with a face of fear or concern, but one that was open to my approach. And so I said what I felt prompted to say.
“I feel like I need to add you to my prayer list.”
What happened next was a bit unexpected. I suppose I assumed it would be a curt thanks, appreciate it, now get away from me you religious freak or this is uncomfortable and the polite thing to say is thank you. I was wrong.
She almost collapsed. She was stunned. Tears welled up in her eyes. You could see she was visibly shaken. She stammered and told me that I didn’t understand what this meant. She was amazed. How could I know she needed prayers at that moment? How could I know what she was going through? That she was so in need of prayers? That she was seeking guidance and direction?
She was blown away and I was too. The Holy Spirit moving this Church of Christ preacher raised to believe the Holy Spirit doesn’t do that. A guy who for all of his boldness often times clams up at the most inopportune time. The guy in front of Walmart stalking some young lady because God badly wanted her to know that He cared. That He knew she needed prayers and he knew that if he had the right young lady eating Nerd Jelly Beans, if the right guy would like a shirt and if he could get a guy who had clammed up the last time the Spirit called. Then there would be a holy moment. A God ordained time. A thin place where God could speak through a broken, messed up vessel like me. He had a guy who owed him one and wanted to make up for it in the worst sort of way.
“I will add you to my prayer list.”
You know I have been praying for her non-stop ever since. I also think you know what is coming next….. would you mind praying for her too? Mindy. I have no doubt that God will know exactly who you are praying for.