we’re all going to the same place anyway

It’s never wise to grocery shop without a list 20 minutes before the store closes. And yet there I was, throwing acorn squash and chili beans in my cart in a mad dash to the only cashier left in Aldi.

As I rushed up to the check-out line at three minutes until 7:00 p.m., an older gentleman and his wife were also attempting to get into line. He was a small man with a loud plaid suit coat, a fedora, no front teeth and a neck that desperately needed a shave. His wife’s cart was relatively empty and so, as you do at Aldi, I told him, “You go ahead,” gesturing toward the cashier.

“Are you sure?” he asked in a thick New York accent.

“Of course,” I responded.

Then I said eight fateful words: “We’re all going to the same place anyway.”

His wife started unloading their cart. She probably knew what was about to happen next.

He gave me a sideways look.

“Are we?” he asked me, stepping closer.

As with most things in life (especially my ability to hit birdies in badminton), I figured it out a second too late. And then, because this is what I do, I got mad. Of course, I thought. Here I’m trying to be nice and this guy has to get goofy. He knew what I meant by “place.” I meant the . . . the check-out line, or the car, or the parking lot, or home. I meant we’re all trying to get out of the ding dang store!

Then he leaned in again. “That depends on something.”

“What’s that?” I sighed, pushing my cart forward to keep him moving and putting my husband’s six quarts of yogurt on the conveyor belt.

This presented a new problem. Now I was penned in by Mr. Brooklyn on one side and a mom with kids who were wailing from being out past their bedtime  on the other. As a person who doesn’t like tight spaces or people getting too close, I was not in a good place.

Literally.

And figuratively.

Pretty much in every way.

“It depends on if you’ve chosen Jesus,” he said, wiggling hairy eyebrows at me.

DSC_0100

I didn’t respond with a huge amount of grace.

“I haven’t,” I said sweetly, trying to keep a smile on my face. “But here’s the good news: He chose me in my Baptism. So I think we’re all good here.”

He didn’t take my hint. “I’m a minister. Name’s Frank,” he said. “I’m from New York. Moved here a few years ago. Have you ever heard of Faith Christian Mission Fellowship?” (Or something along those lines.)

“Nope.”

He rattled off two other names. “Ever heard of them?”

“Nope.”

He looked at me skeptically. “But you do believe in Jesus?”

“Yeah, I do,” I said, hauling bags of apples out of the cart. “I’m a Missouri Synod Lutheran.”

DSC_0412“Never heard of them,” he said.

By now, his wife had paid and the cashier was waiting for him to scoot along. “Here’s what I know,” I said, probably with a hip shoved out to one side and an unhelpful attitude in my voice. “Jesus loves to forgive sinners, and I am . . . most definitely . . . a sinner.”

I stopped right before, “And you standing in my way while I’m trying to buy craisins is not helping my sanctification!” Complete with exclamation point.

See?

Proof.

Me = sinner.

{For more examples, please refer to my husband.}

He finally shook my hand and headed off to help his wife bag their groceries, but not before telling me that the boys at the local Lutheran high school were tall and good basketball players.

So that’s something.

When I left the store, he was chatting with another woman my age, filling her in on the “community of all believers.” He stopped long enough to wave at me. And then wave again when I put my cart in the carrel. And then again as I floored it out of the parking lot.

My old Adam doesn’t dig encounters like that.

I’d been gone all weekend for work. I was tired. I wanted to see my husband. I just wanted to buy some bananas and get home.

But the longer I thought about Frank the minister from New York, the more respect I had to give him. Sure his theology was . . . unique. Sure his inability to read the appropriateness of space bubbles was . . .  unhelpful. Sure his memorized one-liners were a little different.

But I’ll give him this: He wasn’t afraid to bring up Jesus.

TO ANYBODY.

A hair stylist once told me she was taught only to talk about the weather and sports with her clients. Making conversation about religion or politics or sex was a no-no. That’s what polite society teaches too.

But that’s also pretty lame. I don’t actually want to talk about the weather. We can all see it’s raining outside.

And I don’t really want to spend an entire evening at a party talking about sports, because I couldn’t tell you the difference between the Royals and the Rams other than the fact that . . . . yeah. Nope. I got nothin’.

Being brave enough to talk about politics though — about the way in which Christianity is being pushed and dragged out of the public square, about the intrusions of the government in the realm of the Church, about the freedom to worship — that’s something.

And being bold enough to talk about sex — how the culture attempts to redefine marriage, why same-sex couples are sadly no longer seen as those for whom we pray and to whom we speak the truth in love, why sex outside of marriage is harmful and something to be repented of — well, that’s something too.

And being sure enough to talk about religion — about how Jesus Christ came to save sinners, about the way in which He comes to us in His own Word and in His own Body and Blood, about the peace and comfort and forgiveness He loves to give — well, that’s the best of all.

There may be times and places other than 15 minutes before Aldi closes for Frank Brooklyn to talk theology.

But I’ll give him this: He was willing to talk about Jesus, the one who made yogurt and apples and chili beans.

And in this day and age?

That’s something.

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2 thoughts on “we’re all going to the same place anyway

  1. Hi Adriane. What a wonderful post! I miraculously stumbled upon your blog today via blogsbylutherans. Your honesty and fresh writing style were just what I needed to put a smile on my face this morning. I love laughing while drinking my morning coffee. It also brought to mind what is really important. Yesterday I spent the better part of the day bemoaning the misrepresentation of Christianity by some very vocal new age spiritualists who declared they were definitely NOT religious. 🙂

    Your words fill me with confidence in the risen Christ and God’s dominion and grace for his whole creation. I love your photos. Are they of something delicious you made? They look so yummy.

    Thanks again for taking the time to write about your experiences and reflections. I will look forward to getting your posts in my inbox!

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