I had an awkward moment on Sunday. My wife was at her grandmother’s house cleaning and I was at the grocery store with my five year old boy Jeremy and my just-about-to-be two year old girl, Kailey. We were doing a quick restock of food essentials and were making pretty good time in our quest when it happened…an awkward moment.
A tanned, tattooed and kind of worn out looking lady asked me for help in the bottled water and juice aisle. She told me that she had left her glasses at home and couldn’t see the prices on the cases of water.
This was not the awkward part.
I helped her read a few of the prices and she thanked me. I smiled, said something like “no problem” and began to turn and walk away when the awkward moment erupted out of nowhere.
“I’m sorry to bother you with reading these price tags sir.” She said with a sigh of desperation, “I forgot my glasses at home because I’m an emotional mess. You see my dog just got killed.”
As I turned to her I could see a single tear beginning to bulge from her right eye, about to cross over eyelid and streak down her cheek.
“I’m so sorry you lost your dog mam. What kind of dog was it?” I asked.
She told me that it was a Great Dane puppy. She then went on to detail how it had run out into the street and was hit by a car. By this time that bulging tear had begun to make its way down her cheek.
Not knowing exactly what to say I pushed out the only words that I could think of, “I’m so sorry mam. I’ll pray for you.” Giving her a few pastorly pats on the back and a reassuring nod I turned to leave. After all I had two kids with me and the store was busy that day. I thought that the awkward moment was over. But Jeremy revived it with a jolt.
He had been looking at her and listening to her as she talked about her dog. When he saw the tear coming down her cheek he ran up to the lady and almost shouted the words, “Lady, don’t cry. Your dog is in doggie heaven and you will see him again!”
Cute kids can say the cutest things at the most not-so-cute times. This lady just looked at this hyperly verbose child with a blank stare. The words, “I sure hope so” found their way out of her mouth.
But that wasn’t enough for Jeremy. The awkward moment was just getting started.
Interesting Side Note: At this point other shoppers are having to cart their way around our little mid store counseling session. We were in people’s way. Some passed by with a huff and others stood by, picked up various products and pretended like they were reading the labels. But they weren’t. They were leaning in to listen to this preacher, kindergartner and tattooed lady chat about canines, death and doggie heaven (luckily Kailey can’t really talk yet or I’m sure she would have joined in!)
Looking back now I feel kind of guilty because, while I was gently trying to make my getaway, Jeremy was just warming up. He looked straight up at this sad woman and boldly proclaimed, “Lady you can go to heaven too if you just believe in Jesus!” Then turning to me he commanded, “Tell her daddy. Tell her about Jesus.”
I looked at her and smiled and was about to explain to her how my boy talked a lot when Jeremy almost yelled, “Daddy she needs to hear the gospel! You need to tell her about Jesus right now daddy!”
I blushed. Usually my gospel presentations have a little more transition than “you can see your dog someday in doggie heaven.”
Before I could begin to explain the good news Jeremy urged me to show her “the gospel hand.” This is a technique of sharing the gospel that Jeremy learned in Sunday school. You basically hold up one hand in the air and, with your fingers spread out, share the gospel in five little phrases, wiggling the appropriate finger with each phrase. You wiggle your thumb and say, “God loves me.” Then your index finger wiggles and then you say, “I have sinned.” You can guess the rest: middle finger, “Christ died for me”, ring finger, “If I believe” and, last but not least, the pinky finger, “I will go to heaven.”
Another awkward moment, my boy just called me on the carpet (or grape juice stained aisles in this instance) to do the gospel hand to a complete stranger who just lost her dog and was crying in the middle of the bottled water and fruit juice section of my favorite local grocery store. So I turned the tables on my five year old. I said, “Jeremy, you show her the gospel hand.”
Without thinking or blinking Jeremy wiggled his fingers through the Mr. Roger’s version of the gospel. I wasn’t prepared for what happened next (another magically uncomfortable moment.) This lady began to cry, not a single tear, but streams of tears running down her face. She then almost screamed out these words, “It’s not just my dog. I lost my son to cancer awhile ago! I am so mad at God right now! I used to have pictures of Jesus all over my house and I’ve taken them all down. I don’t know what to do! I just don’t know what to do.”
She stood there and wept and Jeremy kept jabbering on about Jesus, the gospel hand and doggie heaven when daddy finally kicked into gear. The awkward moment was gone. I turned and looked directly in the tear drenched eyes of this hurting lady, put my hand on her shoulder and said, “Mam, I am so sorry the pain you have been through. I can’t imagine losing a son. I love my chatty little boy here and wouldn’t ever want to lose him. But there is one who relates to your pain in a way I never can, God himself. You see he lost a Son too, Jesus Christ, for you and me….”
Over the next few minutes I navigated through the gospel message. All the while Jeremy kept talking on and on. I literally had to talk over him. Although I kept turning to him saying, “Daddy’s got it now son” he just kept preaching to this lady right at my side.
When it was all said and done she collapsed into my arms and I prayed for her as she wept on my shoulder. Although people were having to navigate around us there was no more awkward moment for me. This was a divine intervention. This was a God moment. As she came up from the prayer I invited her to come to church with my family and she said that she would really consider it. Pray for her to come to Jesus and connect to the body of Christ, where her shattered soul can be healed.
As we left the grocery store that day I told Jeremy how proud I was of him. I don’t think he understood how amazing that moment in the grocery store was. To him he was just telling some crying lady who had just lost her dog that Jesus loved her.
Maybe that’s what Jesus meant by “the faith of a child.” Maybe the Dare 2 Share guy needs to take a cue from his five year old about not being ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Maybe you do too.
What awkward moment do you need to take with that friend, family member, teammate or co-worker today? They may not collapse into your arms crying, but they probably are hurting more than you know. Embrace the awkward moment in the faith of a child and watch what God will do, not just in others, but in you.
I did and I’m still reeling.