Saturday, March 5, 2016

peanut butter crackers.

I packed our lunches while Braxton took his morning nap, and made sure that we had everything we needed for a picnic and walking date with our cousins. He started chirping (as I call it) from his crib, so I checked our bag one last time just in case I'd missed something. I'd already grabbed a few things for B to snack on if he got hungry while we walked, but something told me to grab a pack of peanut butter crackers, too. I won't eat them because I don't like peanut butter, I thought to myself, but I'll pack them anyway. Braxton was jumping up and down in his crib like usual as I sneakily crawled into his room (a little game we play), and he smiled and laughed and checked himself out in his mirror while we drove to Cleveland Park.

We had the best time eating, walking, and exploring, and it was so refreshing to spend those few hours with three people who sprinkle joy wherever they go. We took our time getting to and departing from Falls Park, complete with a tour of the beautiful bridge and letting B run (crawl) free along it. I whispered, Thank you, Jesus, more times than I can count as I watched our three boys interact with each other the same way that Laura and I did, and I prayed that they would remain close like we have in the days and years to come. I prayed for our city as I stood on the bridge that overlooked so many people and buildings, and I asked God to bless everyone that I made eye contact with (and I love me some eye contact). After a while, we decided to begin the trek back to Cleveland Park, so we herded the boys back toward the direction we came from.

That's when I saw her.

She was sitting on the stone ledge that faces Passerelle Bistro, and her eyes were fixed on her feet. As I watched her sitting there from about twenty feet away, it felt as though everyone around us were moving in time-lapse speed and the two of us were in slow motion. I kept trying to look away, but my eyes were stuck. Her hair was pulled back in a low bun, her navy blue sweatshirt was faded and stained, and her jeans and shoes had holes in them. After a few seconds that felt more like a few minutes, I snapped out of the trance and kept walking. My eyes were no longer stuck on her, but my heart was. Fire in the belly, as I call it. And as I pushed the stroller by her feet, the fire burned more and even began to take my breath away. What can I do, Lord? Why have you pointed her out to me? were just a few of the questions I asked the Holy Spirit as I kept walking further away, and the answer I got was both totally unexpected and completely obvious once I received it.

Peanut butter crackers.

I immediately stopped pushing the stroller, stooped down to get the crackers from our bag, asked Laura to watch Braxton for a minute, and headed back in her direction. As I put one foot in front of the other, I prayed for Christ's compassion and love to be so evident in this simple act that she could smell it coming off of me like perfume.

I startled her as I sat down beside her, peanut butter crackers in hand, and I greeted her with a smile. We talked for a few seconds, and she told me that her name was Marie, which was further evidence that God had completely ordained this meeting, because Laura and I had just been talking about our late Nonnie, who was also named Marie.  I asked her if she would like some crackers, and I told her that she wasn't invisible as she took them from my hand. I told her that she was beautiful, and that she wasn't worthless. She was guarded, wore a confused look on her face, and kept her gaze toward the ground at first, but the moment that I told her that I believed Jesus wanted us to meet that day, she looked up with eyes that glistened as she smiled back at me.

Joy flooded our conversation as soon as the name Jesus was spoken.

Those peanut butter crackers provided a doorway for the kindness of Christ to break through strongholds, fears, and darkness. Those peanut butter crackers were a symbol of hope, to both her and me.

I'm not sharing this with you so that you will be proud of me or pat me on the back or think I've mastered this whole "love like Jesus" thing. Trust me, I'm no master of anything, and the very last thing I want you to take away from this is that I am. The purpose of this writing is to shine a light on the goodness of Christ. He revealed His character in three very tangible ways to me on this day, and He told me that I'm not the only one who needed a reminder.

First, He prompted me to do something that I usually wouldn't do hours before the purpose was revealed. What if I had ignored that prompting and chosen not to bring the crackers? I believe that He would have made another way for Marie and I to meet. I, also, believe that had I not been willing to be the one to go to her, He would have prompted someone else. God is not limited by our ignorance and refusals, nor is He useless without our obedience. His prompting are gifts, and He wants to give them to us in abundance. The grace that prompts us to action is the same grace that will sustain us as we act.

Second, He gave me a small glimpse into the way He sees His creation. The world was scurrying around Marie as she sat there on that stone slate, but He saw her individually. Personally. Intimately. He saw her when everyone else either missed her or simply chose to look the other way. The world was busy doing things, albeit even good things (i.e. mamas taking their kids for a walk in the park), but He removed me from my present reality for a split second and showed me how He sees us. Not only to show me how He sees us, but to show me that He knows us, too. He provided for both Marie and myself in that sweet moment we shared together, and neither of us saw it coming until we were in it. It was beautiful and humbling and overwhelming and wonderful.

Third, He further wove into the core of my soul that He has the power to take the mundane and make it magnificent. Satan doesn't want us to live in or experience the glory of God, so he sprinkles seeds of fear and doubt in our hearts and minds. Seeds of insecurity tried to extinguish the fire that the Holy Spirit had set aflame inside of me in that moment, and I almost kept walking. What could I possibly say or do? She probably doesn't want to be bothered anyway. Those thoughts and more ran wild in my mind until God reminded me of those peanut butter crackers. And then, all the fear that was trying to harden my heart to God's persistent nudges was immediately cast out by the most powerful thing in the world: love. Although it wasn't much, those crackers were a representation of the love of God, and He proved that nothing is too mundane, too insignificant to be used as a tool to usher in His glory.

A pack of peanut butter crackers may be all we have to offer. And many of us have made a habit out of believing that we have no good gift to give, nothing to offer that can possibly make a difference. That would be true if we were on our own, but just like the widow who only had two small coins to give (Mark 12:41-44) and the five loaves of bread and two fish that fed thousands of people (Matthew 14:13-21), Jesus will take our little and make it much. We are the ones who offer up what we have, and He is the one who multiplies it.

Maybe you are the one who feels invisible today. Can I tell you something? You're not. You are fully known by the Creator of the universe, and He loves you. All of you.

Maybe you are the one who sees pain or strife and looks the other way. My prayer is that you would begin to see Jesus as bigger than any hurt, and that your belief in His mighty strength would stir you to courageous action.

Marie was not invisible, and He used a pack of crackers and a little bit of kindness to tell her.

"Let me learn by paradox,
that the way down is the way up,
that to be high is to be low,
that the broken heart is the healed heart,
...that to give is to receive,
that the valley is the place of vision."
Puritan Prayer, Valley of Vision

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