Monday, February 22, 2010

The Spaces that Find Us

Looking up as I walked from the parking lot into the grocery store, a woman smiled at me and we began to chat about the weather. She was from California and she spoke of the storms that were heading our way. With large dark glasses and her head wrapped in a scarf it was difficult to determine her age, but her tone was friendly and maternal. It was her voice, enthusiastic smile, and her heartfelt, “God bless you, child” that touched me. I found myself smiling as we parted at the entrance.

As I walked through the store I passed her again. She was shopping with her adult, very professionally dressed daughter. Her daughter was a beautiful young woman and appeared to be assisting her with her purchases, probably over her lunch hour. The woman stopped and pointed me out like an old friend. I heard her describe me as a “woman with a beautiful spirit”. There I was with no make up, dressed in my exercise clothes, feeling the weight of some personal storms that had been brewing in my life, hearing myself described as beautiful – at least my spirit was looking good. And there she stood, grinning, practically announcing to the deli department that I had a beautiful spirit. Her daughter stood by patiently and smiled at me, as if to say this was not an unusual occurrence.

As we both made our way to the salad bar, we began to visit again. We started in like old friends and there wasn’t a moment I felt uncomfortable. She knew I was a Christian before I said a word, said she just “felt it” as we walked in. We laughed as we both reached for the grilled vegetables at the same time. Turns out we were both missing those grilled pineapple rings that were usually served. She asked me to check the label on the raspberry vinaigrette dressing because her eyesight wasn’t good, and it was her favorite. Mine too. We hugged each other and I thanked her for being such a blessing in my day. I told her that I’d really needed the encouragement. She said the same to me. For that moment, in the aisle by the salad bar, despite the difference in skin color and the presence of her own beautiful daughter, she was my mother. She was the hug that I needed and the reminder of the beauty I carry within solely due to my heritage, as a daughter of God Most High.

While Jesus hung on the cross, he looked down at his grief stricken followers and reminded them that we would need to be family to one another.

“When Jesus then saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing nearby, He said to His mother, "Woman, behold, your son!" Then He said to the disciple, "Behold, your mother!" From that hour the disciple took her into his own household.” (John 19:27 NAS)

Along the way we will each be called to be parents, siblings and even children to those we meet on the path. We must remember to make space for those new relationships, no matter the how fleeting the scope or context might appear. Today a generous and loving woman found the space in her heart to be my mother for a few minutes in the midst of her errands. I thank God for her kindness and her example. Her gesture has empowered me to make room in my heart, where minutes before there had been worry.

Although this passage of John’s gospel has deep theological meaning on many levels, for me today it was simple. Look around, make eye contact and be ready to accept the family God has provided through the love of Christ Jesus. May God bless each of us today with the grace to reach out in love to someone unexpected we encounter along the way. Amen

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