This is a guest post by Fran Rossi Szpylczyn.
Some people dread going to church, but I am not among them. You want to ask me what I dread? There are many things, but today I will address my dread of the grocery store. Perhaps better put, my former dread of the grocery store.
Trust me, I have nothing against groceries! Sometimes I just find it tedious to go food shopping. Often I find myself thinking about what I could do with that hour if I did not have to go food shopping. Recently I had one of those days: I viewed the world in a diminished fashion feeling like that particular day was as rushed, as it was, plus I had to go get food.
The spiritual and practical irony that we have more in our fodder than we need stands out to me as I write this. Complaining about having more than enough money and time to go to the supermarket of my choice, driving my car, strikes me as embarrassing now, but I digress. People are in serious food deficit, and I’m complaining about the challenge of having to get some? God forgive me!
God waiting at the store
Crabbing all the while, I got into my car and drove to the store. Who needs gas when there was enough self-pity and righteous indignation and anger about this journey to fuel a caravan of vehicles!
It is so embarrassing to have revealed that to you, but it is true.
Moments later, I pull my car into a space and stomp across the parking lot with my shopping list and an attitude. I’m growing annoyed with my own annoyance at this point! Grabbing a cart, I walk through the front door to begin this awful trial, and then it happens.
“Fran!” I look up and there they are. Phyllis and Nick are new residents and parishioners at my parish. How can I not smile when I see them? Not only do they appear to be two of the most warm and delightful people I have ever met, I am heartened by the fact that we met on Facebook when Phyllis “liked” our parish blog page. Seeing her in the flesh is such a remarkable treat after months of comment box conversations and emails. Hugs and words are passed like shared food between us and then we move on.
Suddenly, my heart is softened. After all, I just saw God in the bakery department, by the bread no less. My little reverie does not last long because I soon hear a familiar voice saying hello. No, it is not God talking to me as I survey the sourdough loaves; it is my neighbor who is greeting me.
Next stop, the meat department and soon enough, I am in the arms of another church friend who shouts my name and gathers me into an embrace. The busy-ness of summer has us on different schedules and we have some catching up to do, but it won’t be today as we each move our carts in different directions.
An embarrassment of riches
As I make my way down the aisle of cleaning products, another cart blocks my way. With my rancor left somewhere between the front door and the breads of the bakery, I find myself in the unusual position of standing there patiently, silently thanking God for this little excursion. God is everywhere in this store and I am blessed enough to encounter him in my friends and neighbors. And I didn’t want to take this trip, which has turned into an embarrassment of riches?
The shopper whose cart blocked me finally looks up, her face flushed and anguished as she says, “I am so sorry! I was in your way, I’m sorry, I’m sorry!” With God at the controls, I find myself smiling warmly as I reply, “Hey, if this is the worst thing that happens today, we’re in great shape, aren’t we?” She immediately relaxes and smiles as she moves her cart. I’m thankful that I had a brief pause in which I allowed God to give me patience and courtesy. That’s God’s grace, not my good work! It is hard to imagine that only 15 minutes earlier I was in a self-induced rage over having to come here in the first place.
As I turned the corner to the next aisle, you can guess what happened. And it happened several more times before I made my way to back to my car. We are given this invitation to see God in all things, and on the rare days when I do this, the most amazing things happen. God is not only found in church, but in every place we find ourselves, if we can only have the grace to see God everywhere, including amidst the groceries.
Fran Rossi Szpylczyn is a church secretary, author, blogger, and social media missionary who loves to talk about seeing God all in all things. She has an MA degree in Pastoral Studies and lives in the Albany, NY area with her husband and stepdaughter.