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A Slice Of Life To Go is an online Christian blog written by Todd Thompson. It encourages people to see the beauty in ordinary moments and to know God’s unconditional, unfailing love in everyday life.

Talking About God In Aisle 3

April 3rd, 2002

There were only a handful of cars in the parking lot at 11:40 PM. It’s nice being only half a mile from a grocery store that stays open until midnight. To find one that stays open all night means driving an extra mile. Oh, the inconveniences of living in a big city.

I’ve always thought it must be interesting for grocery store cashiers to observe what customers buy. Considering the thousands of items on the shelves, there are a near infinite number of possible purchase combinations. They must see some strange ones. Some time ago I stood in line behind a young husband buying two items: an EPT Home Pregnancy Test and a six-pack of beer. I guess however the test turned out, he was prepared.

There were three items on my strange purchase combination list this night: Nyquil, Pampers (size 3), and a gallon of milk. It was late and I was tired. Thankfully, the items were within three aisles of one another. I headed first to the cold remedy section.

Somewhere behind the law of the universe that states “the slowest moving check-out line is always the one you’re in” is the law stating “stock boys always park their pallets directly in front of the item you’re looking for.” “Jimmy” was dutifully unpacking product while I bobbed and weaved around him, looking for the magic green elixir that would send me and my stuffy head drifting into the arms of Morpheus.

“Find everything you need?” It’s closing time but Jimmy’s customer service voice isn’t tired.

“Yeah, thanks. Got it right here.” I hooked my arm around some boxes and grabbed a bottle of the generic equivalent. Sinus relief at half the price.

“Long day, huh, Jimmy? You clock out at midnight?”

“Yes, sir. Then I go home and study. I’m getting all my requirements out of the way at the community college before transferring to ASU. I want to be an eye doctor.”

“You taking a full load of classes and working full-time?”

“Yep.”

“Been there and done that. It’s not easy.” I had what I needed in this aisle. I could leave now. But I didn’t. Don’t know why. Just decided to talk with Jimmy for a minute longer.

“Jimmy, I went to grad school full-time and worked full-time. It’s not easy, but you can do it. It’s a lot of late nights and a lot of tired days, but you can do it.”

Jimmy stopped stocking, stood up and stretched his shoulders, “Most of my friends are out partying right now. They don’t understand why I’m working this job and going to school.”

“They don’t need to understand. As long as you understand, that’s all that counts. Don’t look at the whole thing at once or you’ll freak. Take it a semester at a time and keep going. One day you’ll say, “Hey, I’m half done.” And then one day, you will┬ábe done.”

I didn’t know thing one about Jimmy’s situation. But I remembered all my nights of sitting in class for 4 hours after working all day. It didn’t make me an expert, but it qualified me to offer encouragement.

“Thanks. This job’s ok. But it gets old, being in here until midnight.”

“But you’re working toward your goal. There might be times you wonder why the heck you’re stocking shelves in a grocery store when your goal is to be an eye doctor. Just remember that everything you’re doing now will count for something. No experience is ever wasted with God.”

Did I just say “God” to a total stranger? I quickly looked at Jimmy. He didn’t flinch at the “G” word. He was standing in front of me listening intently. Maybe he thought my big forehead and receding hairline made me look like an old guy who’d been around awhile. Or maybe he thought I had something worth listening to.

“The work ethic you’re developing here will serve you well when you get to medical school. More hard work, just a different kind. You just keep doing what you need to do and God will honor your efforts.” I said the “G” word again. Jimmy still didn’t flinch. “God is always faithful to meet your needs. So you hang in there. Keep working hard. You’re gonna do great.”

Jimmy said, “Thanks. I appreciate hearing that.” With that I sidestepped the pallet and headed off in search of some size 3 Pampers.

While sorting through the myriad of super absorbency diaper options, I pondered what it is that determines whether talking with someone about God is easy or difficult. I suspect the reason I was able to encourage Jimmy by reminding him of God’s faithfulness is because we were engaged in a conversation and not a lecture. Regardless of topic, no one enjoys being talked at. Most everyone appreciates being talked with.

As one who grew up in the church, I’ve seen just about every method Christians use to talk with others about God. Some are gentle, considerate and respectful in their approach. Others are not. In shopping malls, airports, and on street corners well-meaning individuals have pressed tracts into my hand; pamphlets outlining why God is relevant to my life and to my eternal future. With due respect to their sincerity and the validity of the message, many of them were void of tact and sensitivity. Some were simply frightening to me, waving their tracts like weapons as they invaded my personal space with a crazed look on their face. Let’s face it, there’s nothing winsome about being a psycho for God. Excited about God? Certainly. Joyful about sharing what God has done for you? Absolutely. But if children and adults alike are frightened by you, you won’t get close enough for anyone to hear your message, let alone take it seriously.

Jimmy and I had never met before. I don’t know his background and he doesn’t know mine, save what information we exchanged. But that didn’t matter. God is always a relevant topic when we’re talking with others. Whether we know them well or hardly at all, they are living life just like we are. When we talk about God from our personal experience like a normal person who’s living life in the real world, people will listen. They may not agree with us, but they’ll listen.

Even when you’re talking about God in the grocery store at midnight.

“Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity. Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned, as it were, with salt, so that you may know how you should respond to each person.” – Colossians 4:5-6