An amazing event occurred to me one day as a result of discussing the 9 Arts of Spiritual Conversations with my group. I was already noticing how my listening skills had improved and was eager to keep practicing, but the “practice-on-your-own” exercise we were asked to do one week seemed a little daunting:
Ask someone you think might be unchurched this question: “I’ve been wondering if you’ve ever met anyone or experienced anything that made God seem real to you.”
How was I going to build up courage to ask such a question? Who would I ask? When would the opportunity arise? How would the person respond? Then came the opportunity.
I was going through a long process at the FedEx office to expedite my expired passport, and a young employee was assigned to help me. She was extraordinarily quiet and seemed very sad as she simply nodded her head and pointed at the computer screen but did not use any words. I finally asked her as kindly as I could if something was wrong. She hesitantly explained that her new 3-month old daughter had to be left with a babysitter that day. The babysitter had been late, causing her to be late to work.
Tears welled in her eyes, and it was clear that she was very troubled. As time passed, we worked silently together, and I could tell that she was trying not to cry. While waiting for the computer to process, I decided to try opening the conversation again. I asked her baby daughter’s name and then commented on what a beautiful and unusual name it was. She showed energy when explaining that her daughter’s name came from her Nawat tribe’s heritage of the Aztec civilization. I asked if she had a picture of her daughter, and she literally jumped up and hurried off to find a picture. Just by asking a few questions and then listening, I could see a change in her countenance.
When the next long computer-processing pause occurred, and after praying for guidance, I thought of asking her my homework question. I explained that I was taking a class, and our homework was to ask someone a special question, and I wondered if she would mind being the person I asked. She agreed. (OK, here I go, I thought.)
So I asked if she had ever met someone or experienced something that made God seem real to her. She paused for a moment to think. Finally she answered, “God did help me once, but unfortunately I went back to being crushed.” Her body language told me that that was all she wanted to say, and we went back to the paperwork.
Thirty minutes later, out of the blue, she said enthusiastically, “I know! I remember a time! One day a lady came into the store, and I was helping her with a passport photo. At one point she asked if she could pray for me. She placed her hand on the small of my back, and even before she could speak, I felt Jesus and this feeling that traveled up my back into my head. My sinus problem vanished at that moment. I had been taking medication, but my sinus problem went away just like that with no medication!”
From that moment on, she took extra care to talk with me, and she seemed happy to guide me through the rest of the 3-hour passport renewing process. A number of times, though, she mentioned to me softly that she had been crushed in her life. I was troubled by this, but again her body language indicated that she did not want to elaborate or be asked further questions.
That evening I had to return to the FedEx office to complete my transaction, and my new friend had said to be sure to ask for her. Before I went back, I thought about this young woman feeling “crushed” and was reminded of the Scripture in Psalm 34:18: “The Lord is close to the broken hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” I wrote that verse and my contact information in a book about grieving and also grabbed a New Believer’s Bible.
When I got to the FedEx store I saw this young woman behind the counter and thought, Is this the same person? She was humming, singing, and subtly dancing around as she worked. Then she saw me and said, “That was fun today!” After my passport business was all wrapped up, I offered her the two gifts I had brought, explaining what they were. When she took them, a warm smile and a genuine “Thank you!” spread across her face.
I believe God led me through that day to touch this young woman’s life the way that Jesus touched the lives of people he encountered. And I am convinced that now this young woman has yet another example of God made real to her . . . and that this story will continue!
Cathy, from San Jose, CA