So I was in Publix the other night.
It had been a while. I was child-less and I was focused. The pen was flying quickly across each item on paper as I placed it in the cart. The wheels turned quickly and agilely around each corner, not having to maneuver around tiny people who always seem to have the keen ability of being right in the way. I felt light and I felt fast. I was conquering the grocery store.
I quickly moved past the fruit juices then the yogurt. Was that on my list? I scanned the scribbled paper I held in my hand. Nope… keep moving.
I was just about to turn down the canned soup isle when I suddenly had to put on the brakes. A Mama had blocked the entrance. She was talking to her little girl and she didn’t see me. Once we made eye contact, though she slowly pulled back, allowing me to pass her.
I continued on my mission, making more check marks down my list.
I arrived on the next isle, and began scanning the shelves. Sometime I forget to write things down on my list. I added a couple of things to my cart, ignoring the urge to write them down, just so that I could mark them off. (yes, I do that)
I heard them before I saw them. The Mama and her little girl who must have been about 2. She was not happy. She was fussing and wanted out of the cart, then wanted down, and then wanted her Mama to hold her. And the Mama was talking to her baby girl. Voice soft, gentle, patient… “Are you hungry? Here’s your banana I brought for you. No? Then what do you want? A hug? Why don’t you hug Mama?”
I looked up then and studied them both. The Mama was a Marine. She wore heavy boots and a dark green top that was covered by what appeared to be a maternity shirt. Her hair was pulled back tight in a bun. She had tired eyes, but willing arms.
I looked at my watch. It read 8:30pm. She just needs to be in bed, I thought.
I moved past them and went onto the next isle. After a few minutes they followed. This time the baby’s cries were louder, more demanding. I honestly expected to hear a drill instructor voice come from this tired, pregnant, Marine Mama. But I didn’t. Not at all.
“You know I love you…I have missed you all day… Aren’t you happy to be with Mama, Lilly? I have waited all day to be with you! she said very controlled, sweetly.
I turned then, my heart going out to this Mama who had been away from her little girl all day, who had missed her and who wanted to just be with her baby, even if it was in the grocery store, even if it was past her bed time.
I did not expect to see what I did when I turned back to look at them. There she was, this big strong Marine Mama and she was on the floor holding her crying baby girl. Sitting. Next to the sugar. In the middle of Publix.
I quickly turned back around, not wanting to embarrass her. I went on to the next isle. My next item. My next check mark.
I smiled to myself as I listened to them from the next isle over. She was still there, on the floor, consoling her child. And I thought, would I do that? Would I lay aside my pride, my list, my agenda to hold my tired, demanding child in the middle of the isle of Publix? What a sweet Mama she is. What grace.
I wondered what the other people around would be thinking. Would they think it was sweet? My first thought was, no. They would probably see it has ridiculous, inconsiderate, annoying. That seems to be the general consensus these days.
But before I could point my finger at the people in Publix, the people in our culture, I first had to stop and look into my own soul and ask that hard question. How do I view my own kids? In the middle of their meltdowns, in the middle of my schedule, in the middle of hurrying through this life?
Often times I am the guilty one. The one who thinks to slow down is a bit ridiculous. To have them interrupt my life is a bit annoying. To extend grace is a little inconvenient. And how inconsiderate is it to have to go to the bathroom when we’re in the middle of Wal-mart??
This Marine Mama had no idea how she was convicting me, how she was blessing me, how she was challenging me.
I hoped nobody said anything to her… you know, in a mean way.
Then I felt that prick and I tried to ignore it. The one that makes your hands sweat and your heart beat fast. I’m not really the ‘go up and talk to strangers’ type of person. I tried to keep going, I tried to stay on task, I grasped my list just a bit tighter.
But then I realized I had forgotten something important on that one isle. I knew I had no choice.
I waited until I had placed it in my cart. Checked it off my list. Turned my cart around so that I could make a quick get-a-way.
I turned and looked at her. She was still busy tending to her tired baby. So I quickly said, “Excuse me. I’m sorry. But I just wanted to say…” what?
How do you tell a perfect stranger how they have blessed you? How do you explain the monologue you had just been having one isle over? How do you thank her for sitting on the floor in the middle of the grocery store to tend to her crying baby…?
So I just said, “You’re a sweet Mama. Thank you for blessing me tonight.”
I think she was expecting me to say something else. Something negative. Because her eyes lit up and she looked surprised. “Well, thank you” she said with a tired smile.
I walked away and I smiled. I was glad I had said it. I was glad I saw it and was able to really see. I was glad for the reminder to slow down and that it’s ok to sometimes look silly if it means ministering to my children. I was glad for the reminder of grace and of the way God parents us.
That’s something He would do. That’s something He did when He was in the form of a man here on this earth. He sat with the sinners. Even when others thought He was crazy. He still did it, because they were His kids and it just didn’t matter what other people thought when it came to His grace. It was ridiculous. It was radical and I’m sure a bit annoying to those who thought He should straighten up His robe a bit or tighten His sandals.
But that’s the thing about grace. Sometimes it’s messy and not always neat. Especially when it’s your kids your giving it to. And especially when you are in the middle of life and in the middle of the grocery store…