A couple of months ago I was part of a team putting on a women’s retreat. We had come together on the Friday evening to do the set up and preparation for the weekend. There was a lot of physical work involved and by the end of the evening I was tired, disheveled, and sweaty. Although I felt in inner satisfaction at the work achieved, I did not feel pretty in that moment.
Some of the team had already gone home; family schedules or sheer tiredness. But a handful of us put the finishing touches to things, and then gathered for a few moments of prayer together in the small chapel we had just created for the weekend. One of the ladies said a spontaneous prayer about us being instruments of the Lord and asking God to let His light to shine out from us.
On my way home I had to stop off at Publix to pick up a few items. It was almost closing time, about 9.40pm by the time I got there. I ran in, grabbed what I needed, and headed out the store to go home. As I stepped out and into the parking lot a gentleman had just parked in the Handicap slot and was exiting his truck.
In that moment my mind took in a couple of things: he had parked in the Handicap slot and he was using a cane for support as he walked. I took my second step into the parking lot as he turned toward the store and our eyes met. It wasn’t a “frozen-in-time” moment. I’ll try to explain it.
The next three or four seconds seemed to run in slow motion. Everything that happened was like a .1 of a second, frame-by-frame shot of those moments. I took in the gentleman’s physical handicaps (possibly the result of cerebral palsy). I saw his eyes light up as he took in my presence. I watched as his mind began framing a thought and then started transmitting that thought from his brain to his mouth.
Speaking slowly and with some difficulty he said, “You are so very pretty ma’am”. I was totally caught off guard. I think I hesitated for a fraction of a second in my step as I tried to process the words that I had heard and the context of the moment. And then I gave him a huge smile as I replied, “Thank you sir.” Again, I watched his thought process form and the transmitting order going from brain to mouth, and he added, “You are glowing with prettiness”. Without hesitation I said, “That’s because I’ve been about God’s business”. He nodded, tipped his baseball cap, and we both went about our ways richer for our encounter.
This story so far, in and of itself, is beautiful. But it didn’t end there. I went home feeling light as a feather and feeling truly beautiful inside and out, as only a 65 year-old women who was feeling very scruffy at the time of this occurrence could possibly feel. I was not only smiling with my mouth, but it felt like I had a huge smile inside my stomach that was just spreading all over my body.
Next morning I was up before dawn to head over the St. John’s river to the church. We had an awesome first day of retreat and early on Sunday morning we gathered together in our chapel for morning prayers which Deacon Paul had written especially for our weekend. Imagine the synchronicity, the God-incidence that I felt when we came to read the response that he had created for our Intercessions. The exact words were (thank you Sue!), “Lord, make us shine with the brightness of Christ.”