I’m not always the best listener. Just ask my three daughters. As they were growing up, my girls used to tell me stories that were, well, long. Important parts of their day, to be sure, but after a while my eyes would glaze over and eventually they’d wave their hands in front of my face saying, “Mom, you’re not listening!”
I’ve tried to improve my listening skills over the years, and last spring, God gave me a strange and wonderful opportunity to practice . . . right in the Target parking lot. Looking back, I know this situation was God-ordained, because of several unusual circumstances.
First, my list—I had ventured into Target needing only three things. Who does that? I usually wait until I need at least ten items before I will walk the miles of aisles in Target. But on this day, I needed only three.
The second unusual circumstance was that I used the self–checkout, which, again, I hardly ever do. But since I only had three items, I figured, why not?
And since I was standing at self-checkout, I decided to grab a cup of coffee at Starbucks—another rarity for me. The whole day was getting weird. Yet, stranger still, was the fact that there was nobody to wait on me at the Starbucks. I waited for a minute, yet nobody came to take my order.
Impatient person that I am, I gave up and headed out the door. And here’s how I know my trip to Target was God–ordained. At the precise moment that I walked out the front door, an SUV pulled up at the stop sign to my right and the woman who was driving rolled down her window, looking straight at me, and said, “Could someone please help me? I’m desperate! Please help me!”
I walked over to the passenger side where she had rolled down the window and said, “What’s going on? What do you need?”
“I need money for gas to get to my mother’s house,” she replied. “I’m in a terrible situation with a man, and I need to get away from here today.”
“OK,” I tried to be calm. “Where does your mother live?”
She told me the name of a town about two hours from here. I glanced at her gas gauge, just to be sure. It was on empty.
At that moment, I realized I had been given a divine assignment. I reached for my wallet and leafed through some bills (another strange occurrence that day, since I rarely have cash on me), and it was as if God said, “That one. I want you to give her that one.” It would be enough to get her to her mother’s house.
I handed her the money and something inside me said, “Pray with her.” So I asked, “Can I pray for you?”
“Oh yes, please!” she said.
I reached inside the car to touch her arm, but she grabbed my hand and held on for dear life, agreeing and “amen”-ing with every word I said. When I finished, she said, “Thank you, thank you. You have no idea what this means.”
I looked down at the seat in front of me and noticed, for the first time, a baby bottle lying right there. “Do you have a child?” I asked.
“Yes,” she replied, pointing to the car seat in the back that I had not even noticed.
I encouraged her to get herself and her child to safety. I asked her name. I told her I would be praying for her. And then I walked away in complete peace. Not shaking. Not crying. Just feeling completely peaceful and calm.
As I drove away I thought about all the unusual circumstances about that Target trip, even down to the fact that not one single car had pulled up to the stop sign during the five minutes that I talked and prayed with this woman. (Have you ever not seen a car at that stop sign?)
I realized that without a doubt God had a job for me to do that day, and I felt grateful, so humbled, that I was able to help her in some small way.
All it took was for me pay attention and to listen.