Cruising Along…. Until I took a Detour

Following morning worship I drove straight to the grocery store.  Short on time, I was on a mission.  One of my children would be starting a six-hour drive in another hour, and I was determined to give her a healthy lunch before she hit the road.  My goal was to be in and out of the store in 15 minutes.  I grabbed the shopping cart and moved quickly toward the bakery.  I threw a loaf of ciabatta bread in the cart and scratched it off my list.

As I whipped my cart around to rush to the produce section I spotted a familiar shock of white hair.  Even from a distance I knew who it was.  I had chatted with this man a year or two earlier in this same grocery store.  He was pushing his cart away from me and I made no effort to follow him.  After all, we were not even real acquaintances.  Our relationship was a professional one; I had been his wife’s nurse at the time of her death several years ago.

I continued my shopping in the produce section and then headed to the back of the store for one last item.  I glanced at my watch and gave a mental fist pump.  I was already in the home stretch and was going to make it out in the allotted time.  Success!

But as I cruised past the dairy products I once again spotted that white-haired gentleman with his cart now facing in my direction.   Although I was headed straight toward  him, his head was turned to the side as he scanned the selection of cheeses.  I kept my eyes straight ahead as I began to move past him.  I soothed my conscience with the thought that he probably wouldn’t remember me anyway.  And then I heard the gentle voice of the Holy Spirit encouraging me to slow down.  I checked my watch again.  It was decision time.  Keep moving or take a detour?  Was this an interruption or an opportunity?

Leaving my cart, I stepped across the aisle to greet him.  I spoke his name to get his attention and he turned his head to look at me.  His eyes showed immediate recognition and he reached out his hand to grab mine.  Right away his eyes filled with tears. Oh, he remembered me all right.  As we chatted he shared with me how much he continues to miss his wife of 57 years.  He relayed that he has taken a few widows out to dinner, but only for one date.  Shaking his head he said, “I don’t know.  I just feel like they are cheating on their husbands.”  Or more likely, he feels as though he is betraying his beloved Shirley. He talked about his great loneliness and the long, empty days.  I remembered that as his wife lay dying, I had stood near her bed and prayed with him.  Now, I reminded him that God loves him and cares about his pain.  He nodded in affirmation and acknowledged that God has been good to him.   I invited him to attend a worship service and he took down the information.  We chatted for ten minutes or so, and I hugged him as I said good-bye.  He squeezed my hand as I left him and thanked me for stopping to say hello.

As I headed for the checkout, my steps had slowed to a reasonable pace.  Those lost ten minutes were enough to change the plans I had had for lunch, and at any rate, it no longer seemed important. I knew that the leftovers in the refrigerator would be adequate.

My brief conversation with this man had quieted me.  I had seen a glimpse of a love that had endured more than half a century, and felt challenged to continue to pour myself into the union that God has given me.  Could I find fresh ways to bring delight to my own beloved?  But even more, I am grateful for the mysterious ways that God works.  How, in the face of heartache and loneliness, does someone continue to affirm the goodness of God?  I believe it is the mark of a life which has experienced the love of God.

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12 thoughts on “Cruising Along…. Until I took a Detour

  1. What a beautiful reflection on one of those experiences that we’ve all had—to stop and give of ourselves in an interaction that we think holds no personal value, or hurry on with our own agenda—that is the question!! I love your conclusions and transparency in sharing what you thought about when all was said and done. Thanks once again for reminding us that real living exists in what we give, not in what we think we need to accomplish at any given moment.
    PS. Whan are you combining all these into a devotional for women???? I’d buy it!!

    • Just when I think I have nothing more to write, something will happen and the story writes itself. If the Lord leads me to do so, and they really would bless women, I would love to compile them. But Bev, you have already read them all! “)

  2. Jill- Ah…so lovely, so challenging, so piercing. Yes, the message to heed the Holy Spirit…ouch, I am pierced. Yes, the message to enjoy each moment with my spouse, to see our lives together as a gift…ouch, I am convicted. Thank you for sharing. I love what the Lord does through your faithfulness in writing and sharing these stories! Amen!

  3. Tears and goosebumps! We can all relate to this. Please include this in a book, this is a gift from God.
    Thank-you for letting the Lord use you to better other life’s.

  4. Jill, I can so empathize with all you wrote; I can remember times of obedience to the Holy Spirit’s promptings to slow down and lovingly respond to interruptions, as well as disobedience where keeping my crazy pace rose to heightened levels of importance! I have learned that God multiplies my time and also blesses me when I act in obedience in this way (yet I still sometimes struggle!). Thanks for articulating those experiences that so many of us can nods our heads and smile as we read!

    • I am prone to ignore those little nudges from the Holy Spirit, but when I do obey I am always the one who comes away blessed. I love these words of Annie Keary (1825-1879) regarding what we see as interruptions: “It is not a waste of time, as one is tempted to think, it is the most important part of the work of the day-the part one can best offer to God.” I love God’s economy – He gives such good returns on our investments!

  5. Jill, you gave that man a great gift ….the opportunity to share about his beloved wife who he misses so much. Often I find that people want to avoid someone who is grieving…fearful that that don’t know what to say or that the person will get upset….but the best gift is when someone allows the grief stricken person to talk about their loved one who is always in their heart. When someone you love so deeply dies, they are always on your mind. Grieving is such a lonely journey and I couldn’t going imagine going through it without the comfort of our Lord. I have learned not only to enjoy each moment with my husband but to never take anyone for granted in my life. One scripture that has gotten me through each day is “The Lord is near the brokenhearted; He saves those crushed in Spirit.” Psalm 34:18 You blessed that man more than you will ever know….thank you for sharing this story…it gives me hope.

    • Thank you for sharing. I think that for those of us who have not experienced the pain of losing someone unexpectedly, it is hard to know what to say to people who are grieving. It isn’t that people don’t care, or aren’t acutely aware of the suffering, it’s just hard to know how to bring up the topic so that the grief-stricken person can talk. Thank you for the reminder that looking for that opportunity is well worth the effort.

      It is a blessing to see your reliance on the Lord and how he is carrying you through this time of grief.

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