Sharing a hope that’s big enough

I worked as a cashier at Piggly Wiggly in high school, and I still remember some of the customers who frequented my line.

They were intentional about asking me questions and about taking a general interest in my life. I loved seeing them and catching up on their lives as well, so I’m not exactly sure why now, as an adult, I haven’t been great about doing the same to the cashier at the grocery store or the guys at the oil-change place.

Getting to know Mr. K

Perhaps I’m just grateful I made it to the front of the store without knocking over a cracker kiosk with the giant race-car shopping cart and am hoping to make it out of the store without a major catastrophe. Or maybe I assume the cashier, who I’ve seen 45 times and certainly remember, doesn’t remember me. I’m in a rush after all, so why bother talking beyond the simple smile or brief hello? Or maybe I’m too focused on the screen – gotta make sure those grapes are really only $1.99 per pound, or I’m not getting them.

Whatever the reason, I’m pretty sure that as a follower of Jesus Christ, I need to be more mindful of who is serving me and how I can love them with my words. No, this isn’t always possible or even necessary for various reasons, but I also know from my cashier days it can make a difference.

Over the last few years my husband and I have tried to be intentional with the man who does our dry cleaning: Mr. K. We see him bi-weekly, so after a few questions here and there over the years we have slowly gotten to know him. We’ve learned that he and his wife were originally from India, they practice Hinduism, and have one child-a son who recently received his masters and has since started working in another state.

Know people, not facts

Mr. K only closes a handful of days a year; I noticed about a year ago that he was closed at an unusual time. When I went back the next week and asked him if he was gone for his annual family reunion, he answered very despondently, “No, my wife died.” What?! I couldn’t believe it. She had died suddenly. Of course, I felt awful, and I’m not sure what I said beyond “I’m so sorry.” The next several months, we tried to go by the dry cleaners more often to check on him.

A number of years ago, Matt Williams said instead of picking up a book to learn about somebody’s religion (or anything really) have them over for supper and ask them about it yourself. You would think that would have crossed my mind before he challenged the church with that, but it hadn’t. In the information age, many of us want to be fully informed on an issue before we approach it. We can find fifty million facts about Hinduism or India or dry cleaning with a few easy searches, can’t we?

This isn’t necessarily bad, but what about the actual person and their personal experiences? How can we develop a relationship if we know all the “facts” and have nothing further to say? Our minute-long discussions at the drive-in window, or the cash register, can only go so far. So, in efforts to love on Mr. K and learn even more about his life, we invited him over. Praise God he said yes (and the dear man even surprised us with a cake from Strossners. The kids and I were giddy!). We had a delightful time, but I’m almost in tears thinking about our conversations over supper and cake… Hearing how much he loved his wife and how much pain there is in his daily life was overwhelming. He is lonely. He has little hope.

A big enough hope

I stopped by the other day to drop off some clothes, and Mr. K reminded me it had been a year since his wife had died. He said it’s only getting harder, and time has not relieved his pain. His eyes filled with tears as he spoke; we both were jolted back to reality when one of my sons shoved his new Star Wars watch out the window to show him. The kind man contrived a smile, and we briefly discussed having another meal together. I then zoomed off in my comfortable world, racing to get back to the piano teacher before my daughter’s lesson was finished.

As I drove, I couldn’t help but think: Do I believe the hope I find in Jesus Christ is big enough to be the hope that Mr. K is unknowingly searching for? I’ve never experienced grief as he has, but I’m sure I will.  Possibly soon. Like Bill White says, my spouse or my children could be gone in an instant. Where is my identity? And I know when my parents die I very possibly will become a basket case.

Will the hope I cling to now when things are good and comfortable be my sustenance when things are really hard? Do I continue to pursue Mr. K because he’s a nice little Christian project or because I truly believe the Creator of the universe loves him and can give him an unspeakable joy unlike he has ever known?

A present hope

Not that Jesus is a fix-all antidote that ensures a life free from pain. Mr. K will continue to miss his wife dearly. The grief won’t magically vanish if Jesus enters his world. This world is broken. We will hurt. But there IS a living hope, and not just a future hope. We aren’t supposed to endure here miserably until we get to Heaven. We can be joyful now because He lives!

“Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory. So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God.” Romans 5:3 & 11

I don’t know the answers to all the questions I asked myself the other day. I do know Mr. K is worth pursuing simply because I am choosing to believe that Jesus and His promises are real. I’d love to share this journey with Mr. K with you. Would you please join me in praying for him if he comes to mind? Is there someone in your life that is lacking the hope that you cling to? How can you love them this week?

“All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is by His great mercy that we have been born again, because God raised Jesus Christ from the dead. Now we live with great expectation, and we have a priceless inheritance—an inheritance that is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay. And through your faith, God is protecting you by His power until you receive this salvation, which is ready to be revealed on the last day for all to see.” 1 Peter 1:3-5

-Mary Beth Spann