Tonight I spent an hour in the Wal-Mart parking lot. I wasn’t talking to anyone or selling anything. In fact, it was midnight and I was one of only a handful of people there. I didn’t plan to be at Wal-Mart at midnight on a Saturday evening, and I certainly didn’t have any intention of staying in the parking lot for an hour. Instead, I planned a quick trip on my way home from my brothers house to purchase a few things we needed for tomorrow.
My shopping trip started out normal enough. I purchased my items, loaded up the car, and went to put away my cart. As I pushed it to the designated row, I noticed another cart and grabbed it, too. After putting the two carts away, I saw a third close by and went to get it as well. It was at this point when the thought popped into my head: “wouldn’t it be nice if I were to put all the stray carts on this row away?”
And now comes my reason for writing this post, because I’m not fishing for compliments or praise. In fact, I wouldn’t have been able to spend that hour in the parking lot had God not been working on my heart a few weeks before to teach me a lesson that I desperately needed in that moment. And that is what I want to share with those who read this…
When it occurred to me that I could possibly be a blessing to the person whose job is to put away the grocery carts by putting up those on my row (what if every Christian did this each time he was at the grocery? How blessed would the cart-guy at Wal-Mart be?), I really had a struggle to overcome. The problem wasn’t that I was running late, or that I was too busy, or even that I was too tired. The problem was that I didn’t want the few people who were coming in and out of Wal-Mart to see me putting up the carts. In my headcovering and nice skirt, I didn’t exactly look like a Wal-Mart employee, and as I began to step out in obedience to the thought I felt was God-inspired, I truly felt ridiculous. As a woman who wears a headcovering in a small town, I often get strange looks and I try to be as inconspicuous as possible most of the time. At that moment, however, I felt like I had a neon sign flashing across my chest and was sure that EVERYONE was staring at me. (In moments like this, my husband likes to say that no one is paying attention to me because they’re too worried about themselves. This is probably much closer to the truth of my situation, but it sure didn’t feel like it at the time!)
I have struggled a lot in the past with feelings of self-consciousness and one of the biggest difficulties in my Christian walk and ministry has been my fear of making a fool of myself. With every cart I put away, it seemed that ten more people were staring at me, all of them marveling at my ridiculousness. I wanted desperately to quit. Yet underneath that desire and the incredible embarrassment I was feeling, there was a part of me that knew I was being challenged. Would I rise above my own feelings of embarrassment to do something I felt God was calling me to do? Or would I choose to please man rather than God? As I struggled with this, I thought of something that God taught me a few weeks ago… a post I had written regarding this very subject. If you haven’t read the post entitled “Playing Unto God,” it might be helpful for you to stop and read that before you go on. You can find it by clicking the link below. Go ahead, I’ll wait for you. ;)
When I thought of Joshua Bell and the lesson I learned from his experience in the Metro Station, I was reminded once again that I was “playing unto God” and not man. It didn’t matter if the people around me thought I was foolish, I knew that this was something God wanted me to do, and I wanted to please Him.
I finished putting the carts away on my row, then decided to put the carts away on the row beside mine. It wasn’t long before the people started to fade into the background and it didn’t make the slightest difference to me any longer what they thought about my strange behavior. I became more concerned about pleasing God and being a blessing to the Wal-Mart employees than the reactions of those around me. When I finished putting away the carts on those two rows, I went on to the next. When I finished it, I kept going. In the end, I put away every cart in the parking lot and didn’t leave Wal-Mart until after 1:00 in the morning.
I cannot begin to tell you how blessed I felt, looking at that parking lot after all the carts were put away! I have no idea if my work was helpful to the cart-guy. For all I know, there are thirty guys in charge of putting away the carts in the Wal-Mart parking lot, and my hour of work only saved each of them five minutes of work. No one may ever notice what I did, and I may not have been a blessing to anyone. But the fact is that tonight was my first major victory over my own self-consciousness and that was a huge blessing to me. Tonight was the first time I put into practice the powerful lesson that God taught me through Joshua Bell’s Metro Station experience and it felt absolutely wonderful.
Tonight I found that when I keep my eyes on God, and “play for the Master” rather than “the masses” I can truly rise above my own fears and do the will of God – regardless of what others think. And you know what? That’s worth any number of hours spent in a Wal-Mart parking lot. Even if it is a little bit ridiculous. :)