Wednesday, April 13, 2005

aisle two

When I walked through the automatic doors of the grocery store that night, I had one goal: find a can of cream of mushroom soup, buy it, and get back to my car as quickly as possible. I'd already been to the store twice that day. Those trips had been squeezed in between a whole lot of cleaning, errand running, and baking. Enough was enough, so this was going to be a very quick, very uninteresting run through the store.

But my plans changed when I heard my instructions. You're going to walk down every aisle and look at every item on the shelves. It wasn't an audible voice, but it may as well have been. The impression was so strong and so urgent that despite my weariness, I veered right as I crossed the automatic doors and grabbed a cart ... for one can of soup.

I don't argue with the Lord. I've learned there's always a reason for those insistent whispers.

I started in produce and examined the neat piles of avocados and mangos and limes. I meandered past meat and noticed that pot roast was on sale. I checked out tortillas and cereal and coffee--all the while wondering what I was waiting for.

An aisle or two after I grabbed my cream of mushroom soup, I overheard a young couple wondering where the soup was. So I escorted them back to the right aisle and pointed out that the store brand was 29 cents cheaper than the name brand.

I kept walking, kept looking. Forty-five minutes passed, and I still had only one can of cream of mushroom soup in my cart. But then I turned down aisle two and found out why God had stalled me.


I turned and saw my friend. I'll call her Maggie. Maggie--my beautiful, wild, restless friend. I hadn't seen her in almost two years, not since this mother of four left her husband to go feel young again. She didn't return phone calls and she didn't loiter in areas where she might run into any of the old church crowd. But she hadn't anticipated aisle two.

I hugged her and told her she looked good, but I lied. She looked exhausted. She had the look of a woman who'd galloped hard only to find the horizon held nothing better than what she'd run from. I knew she'd met a lot of new men and returned to a lot of old, destructive habits, and it showed. She looked hardened and jaded and much, much older than the girl I'd last seen.

"Are you okay?" I asked.

She nodded and gave me the brightest fake smile she could muster. "I'm living in an apartment near here."

"I'd love to sit down and talk sometime," I said. To remove the guarded look from her face, I added, "I won't lecture--I'll just listen."

"We'll do that," she said, but I knew better. This would be my one chance. I had to make it count.

"We all miss you."

"You mean you're all angry with me," she countered.

"No. We're sad, Maggie, but no one is mad at you. We love you."

She scoffed. "Some have an odd way of showing it."

I knew who she referred to. Another couple had been very firm with Maggie when she left her husband. Their last, tough-love conversation had not gone well. The woman--I'll call her Samantha--had taken Maggie's leaving particularly hard.

"I saw Samantha not long ago," I said. "When I asked her if she'd heard from you or knew how you were doing, she burst into tears. She cried for fifteen minutes straight ... you can't believe how much she misses you."

"Well, I don't need friends like that. You have no idea the things they said to me."

"You're right," I agreed. "I don't know. I only know that sometimes, when you love someone and you're frightened for them, you say whatever you must to keep them from making a mistake."

She tried to change the subject. "It's so weird running into you here. I didn't know you shopped out this way."

"I don't think it's weird. I think it's God, Maggie. I think He wants you back."

She shook her head slowly. "I'm not sure I believe in God anymore."

"It doesn't matter. Even if you don't believe in Him, He won't stop reaching out to you. He'll never give up, because He loves you. We all do. And we'll be here when you're ready to let us back in."

I'm sure she didn't want me to see the tears forming in her eyes, but I did. "I'll call you sometime," she said. "I promise." She reached for me and hugged me, long and tightly.

"Please do," I said. And she was gone.

I cried all the way home. That was more than a year ago, and I haven't seen or heard from Maggie again. I knew I wouldn't. But I know something else--I know that the God who sent me to aisle two won't give up on my friend. He watches her when she sleeps and He watches her when she runs, and the second she stops running and turns for a tentative peek over her shoulder, He's going to scoop her up and carry her home.

Oh, I pray she peeks soon.


11 Comment:

At 4/13/2005 5:36 AM, Blogger Monica had this to say ...

I'll be praying for Maggie's peeking, too, Shannon. A lovely bittersweet story, this one. Of course He's waiting to carry her home, He's a loving parent with a wayward child.

We are all so lucky and blessed that He's OUR parent.

At 4/13/2005 7:19 AM, Blogger Rambling Rose Cottage had this to say ...

I stumbled upon your blog and glad that I did. Thank you for sharing your story of how God speaks to you.

At 4/13/2005 7:34 AM, Blogger ddddddddddddddddddddd had this to say ...

I think Monica nailed it. Bittersweet....and He is always watching all of us. One day she'll hear Him....I too pray that it will be soon...

At 4/13/2005 8:10 AM, Blogger HerWryness had this to say ...

I was a Maggie twice in my life. God has been God everytime in my life.

Your posts are eloquent.

At 4/13/2005 12:42 PM, Blogger Kim had this to say ...

Great post Shanny. I'll be praying for Maggie. God won't give up on her! I pray that I listen to God's promptings more often.

At 4/14/2005 2:49 PM, Anonymous Anonymous had this to say ...

Hey Shanny, I needed to read that today. I havent checked for a couple of days and glad I did today. I dont want to be a Maggie but its hard sometimes to not think the grass is greener on the other side. Love your posts.

At 4/14/2005 4:36 PM, Anonymous Anonymous had this to say ...

Shannon, You seem to know Him quite well. Your picture Of God patiently waiting for her to take that peek reminds me of the picture we see in the story of Hosea.
You can't help but believe that He has unimaginable blessings for us right around every corner.


At 4/14/2005 4:49 PM, Blogger shannon had this to say ...

You're right, mdsg. God has goood things up ahead for us. He's very patient, but that's a work area for me. I don't like waiting! :)

At 4/14/2005 11:47 PM, Blogger Macromoments had this to say ...

Shannon, your obedience to God's nudge really shone through your writing. What a huge thought, that God even directs us to a certain aisle in a grocery store when we're open to those whispers. He's not through with any of us yet, and this very moment He knows exactly what's on Maggie's mind.

Thanks for challenging me to listen more closely and chase after what matters most--people.

At 4/16/2005 3:53 AM, Blogger ambiance-five had this to say ...

In the heart of a grocery store but still in the heart of God.

I hope you don't mind that I added you to my blog.

At 4/18/2005 8:19 AM, Blogger shannon had this to say ...

Monica, Joe and Kim--thanks so much for praying for Maggie. When part two of this story happens, I'll be sure to let you all know. :)

Gina and Ambiance-five--thank you for stopping by and commenting. And Ambiance-five ... I don't mind in the least if you add me to your blog. Thank you very much! :)


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