Listening to Michelle

Open House Refreshments. May, 2011.
What Will I Say to Her?
In my last post I wrote about Ahn and the tremendous care she added to a bouquet of flowers. After I left the floral department that day, having sprinted through the grocery store in my business suit, preparing for a company open house, I made my way to the checkstand. Ahn followed me, pushing a second cart loaded with the flowers and balloons I’d bought.
And there, I met Michelle. She bagged my groceries while I transacted business, then took charge of the second cart and accompanied me to the parking lot. 
As we approached my car (okay, Rich’s’ car–this project wasn’t pickup-truck friendly) she read the decal on the rear window.
“‘Godspotting.’ That’s a weird name for a website.”

“It’s my blog,” I told her.

“What’s it about?”

“Spotting God,” I said. As we spoke, my initial perception that Michelle’s gifts were, well, different from most people’s was confirmed. I stood with her, overblown in my suit and pumps.

“I pray to the sun and her daughter,” Michelle said to me as we fitted my purchases into the car. 
I looked at her.
“I used to go to church, but it made me tired,” She explained. 
I felt a meaningless response rise in my throat and swallowed it down. I needed to keep listening.
“I used to go to Saddleback. The big church. You know it?”

“Yes,” I said. “We used to worship there.”

“I would be walking around, looking for a place to sit, and it would feel like hands on either side of my face were pressing in.” She set down a cheese tray, freeing her hands to demonstrate, cupping her face in her own hands. “Or I would feel like I was in a soft fog, like something gentle was wrapped all around me.”

She picked up the bouquet of flowers and I opened the door so she could place it on the floor in front of the passenger seat. Then she turned to me. “What was that? What were those things I was feeling in church?”

“I would say that was the presence of God,” I said.
“You think I’m nuts.”
“No, I don’t! People feel all kinds of things in church.” 
“I would be so tired after church I would go back home and sleep for hours.” Michelle was staring at me, expecting a response.
And I needed to hurry back to the office.
“Michelle, I need to think about what you said. And I have to get this food and stuff back to my office. We’re having a party there today.”

“You think I’m nuts, don’t you?”

“No,” I said, shaking my head with all the emphasis I could muster. 

She cast a skeptical eye upon me. 
“My name is Sheila,” I said to her, reaching out to shake her hand. “It’s nice to meet you.” One of the privileges of a professional career, I suppose, is that we control who knows our names, as we’re not required to wear name tags.
“I have to go back to work now,” I said. “But I will come back another day and we’ll talk some more.” 
“Do you know that movie, The Sixth Sense? I have that, too, what that boy in the movie had,” she told me. I recognized her bid for me to stay longer.
“Michelle, I really have to go now. But I will come back another day soon.”
“Okay,” she said, as she gathered the two empty grocery carts and turned back towards the store. “See you later.” 
Michelle has been on my mind. I’ve been praying about her. I need to honor my promise, so today I will return to the grocery store to look for Michelle.  And I’m wondering:

What do I say to her? What would you say to her? 

I’m also wondering what she will have to say to me.

15 Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your Christian hope, always be ready to explain it. 16 But do this in a gentle and respectful way. Keep your conscience clear.
1 Peter 3:15-16 (NLT)

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