My favorite gold drop earrings were the final bit of my getting dressed for church on Sunday morning. As I popped them into my ears, I was reminded of something that happened many years ago while on vacation with my family. I need to tell you what I was wearing - it's important to the story. It was a hot summer day. My outfit consisted of a skirt, flip-flops, and a tee shirt with a design and scripture that commemorated our church's 25th anniversary.
Anyways, my husband, my daughters and I were strolling through this small little town (our boys were on a missions trip in Brazil). There was a book store advertising home school supplies that caught my attention. I took the girls in with me while Mike went for ice cream. As I was perusing the shelves, the proprietor wandered over.
Shop guy: "You're a Christian?"
Me: "Yeah. (smiling)"
Shop guy: "Really? (frowning) I noticed that your ears are pierced. That's pagan, not Christian."
He proceeded to inform me what I would look like had I been a genuine believer. He went on to tell me that a group of teenagers wandered into his shop last night claiming to be Christians, too. They were part of some church youth group. But he sincerely doubted the authenticity of their faith. At this point, I was getting a bit nervous. The shop was small. I saw my husband standing outside with the ice cream, waiting for us. Shop guy followed my gaze.
"Is that your husband?"
"He's wearing shorts. The men in our church don't wear shorts.
"We're not in your church."
"He wouldn't be allowed in the door."
"Must control fist of death" was the thought zipping through my mind. I put down the books I was planning to buy, and even though I was furious, said (without shouting, by God's grace alone), "You and I may look different from one another, but I will never allow anyone to tell me I do not belong to Jesus Christ." Shop guy just blinked.
Angry and dazed, I left that store. It felt as if I had been repeatedly punched in the head. I complained to the Lord as we wandered back to our car, "How could you have let that happen? I'm on vacation!" Just then, walking towards me was an elderly African-American woman, slightly stooped and leaning on her cane. And whether you believe it or not, this is true. She was wearing the same outfit as me--a skirt and the same celebratory church tee shirt, the church name being the only difference. We looked at each other. She laughed. "Well, look at us, girl", she said. "We're different. But we're the same. Praise God." She laughed again and went on her way. I was still in a daze, but less heart-sore.
So what did I learn from this experience?
1) hateful behavior is often fear disguised. I had to forgive Shop guy and pray for him. Pray that his faith would overtake his fear. My friend JoAnn at Ostriches Look Funny says it best - "square people always have a hard time spinning". He claimed to be a true believer, which would make him my brother. End of story.
2) No matter what, God has your back.
3) Sometimes ministering angels are disguised as little old ladies with cackly laughs.
Joining Emily today