The morning rushed along with carpool lines and a doctor appointment and errands. I checked the to-do list with methodical mindlessness and a vague sense of discontent. I felt busy, I felt rushed, but what did I have to show for it? A cart full of groceries to start the next cycle of dinner and bath time and laundry.
And that’s how I almost missed it.
I stacked onto the conveyor belt some strawberries, a carton of eggs, and that box of fruit snacks my girls talked me into buying, and I realized the checkout lady was looking at us. She was looking at my girls, actually, who were rummaging through the pile of stickers near the counter.
“What a blessing,” she said.
I stopped and looked up, confused for a moment. But then I met her eyes, and I realized what she saw. My littlest was walking around. This may not seem revolutionary, except that this cashier had seen us every Monday for years. And on many of those Mondays, she saw my girl with casts and splints, tracheostomy, and walker. Many of those Mondays, I had floated in with dark circles around my eyes and heavy decisions cloaked around my shoulders.
I had noticed her because of the nod she usually gave me—the one that wordlessly said, “Carry on,” but I had never thought about her seeing our story play out.
It’s in moments like these that I have a choice: I can smile and move on, or I can engage. I can listen. I can learn something.
So, I met her eyes and engaged right back.
“I’m so grateful. God has been really good to us.”
“You know,” she said, “I’ve seen you all come in here. I’ve seen her with the casts and the walker and the tube. And I’ve prayed for you. I want you to know you’re doing a good job, mama. I know it’s hard. I know it’s so hard.”
People will tell you all sorts of things if you listen. Active listening isn’t only about hearing or even observing, but also engaging. And that day, because she was kind enough to engage us, I saw what God had done in our family, the things I was living but also taking for granted. Because I stopped my whirling hurry for a moment, I saw a blessing. If I hadn’t looked up and engaged, I would’ve missed it. I’m sure I’ve missed it plenty of times.
When I’m frenzied, I can’t hear, much less begin to engage. When I try to take control, my perspective focuses inward like a laser—my life, my family, my problems. It takes resting in the peace of God to have the ability to look out. To listen.
I’ve begun to practice listening—stopping to listen when my 8-year-old tells me a story, looking a person in the eye when they take my order or hand me a paper coffee cup. It’s a rhythm that forces me to be intentional with my attention. This is also true of the time I spend with God. I’m learning to stop treating the Bible like an academic text to be examined and mastered like I’m going for the A. I’m learning to stop treating prayer as a one-sided venting session. Instead, listening requires my humility and my stillness. When I come to God with a posture ready to engage and listen, I find that I become better at receiving what God has to teach me. Then, I have a greater capacity to genuinely listen to the people in my life.
So, there it was: God teaching me something in the middle of my busy day. Right there in the grocery store line, we had church. Because that’s what the church does, doesn’t it? It grabs hands across pew-lined aisles, across cultural divides, across grocery store checkout counters. It acknowledges and lifts; it says, “Carry on, my sister.”
And, that’s what God does through the church when we take a moment to be humble and still, to listen and learn. He shows us His goodness.
Featured image by Hill Smiley Photography
Shannon Owen is a Dallas-born Longhorn who loves books. She married her opposite– a Houston native and Aggie engineer who loves nothing better than a good lighting project. She and her husband, Lee, live in Houston and are active members of Houston’s First Baptist. Shannon has a passion for discipleship within the local church, and loves serving with student ministry and teaching Bible studies. She has written and taught for ministries such as Waiting in Hope, Abide, YouVersion, Hope Mommies, and Give Grace. Shannon has two little girls, Avery (8) and Kate (4), who take up the majority of her time with snack requests and messy art projects. You can connect with Shannon on Facebook and Instagram.
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