A Tree In The Check Out Line
“Out of the stump of David’s family will grow a shoot.” Isaiah 11:1
I read these words on a page of a book, and I watch the light reflect across the black letters.
“In that day the heir to David’s throne will be a banner of salvation to the world. The nations will rally to him, and the land where he lives will be a glorious place.” Isaiah 11:10
It was the Saturday night after Thanksgiving, and I had a few items on my shopping list.
Our family did not participate in the “Black Friday” hurry and hustle, and so I thought attempting my purchases the next evening would be a fine decision.
The boys were home with their Daddy, and my goal was to get in and get out and back to them before pajama time.
I noticed the checkout lines when I had gotten there, but they seemed to have doubled and tripled by the time I picked up what I came for. No basket. No buggy. Just me, holding two armfuls of stuff.
The line backed up, and I found my spot. I made small talk. I exhaled. I had to decide if the wait was worth it. It was.
It didn’t take long to hear words I couldn’t understand. There were families with children in front of me and behind me, speaking languages i did not know. I watched smiles on beautiful, little faces. I watched frowns when they got in trouble for running too far. I empathized.
After the first five minutes, a thought came quick. I watched the bright, fluorescent lights reflect on the hard floor and wondered — how can I tell them about Jesus?
The thought was bigger than my small little spot in line, and it pounded in my chest with each heartbeat.
Smile. Joy. Love. Invite conversation.
More minutes passed. Nothing.
I watched a young mother push a buggy with her baby boy inside and two toddlers tagging along behind, and they inched over to the next open check out register. She was tired. I know the look.
The mother’s mother hurdded the oldest boy to keep up with the pack.
Boom. Tears whaled.
I had missed the fall, but I watched the young mother scoop him up, her baby boy fallen, hit hard on the concrete floor.
I watched his red, little face form the same cries as my youngest when he falls, and I saw her hold him close to her chest and walk outside and attempt to calm him.
Father, protect him.
I prayed. I watched the older brothers with panic ask their grandmother if he’d be okay. I watched her panic to decide what to do, as she told them to go outside and check.
My eyes, wet with tears, could not look away.
Help them, Lord.
The cashier scanned her final items quickly; almost done.
The moment His spirit comes is a mighty one. It’s as if the rushing wind stirs the heart so quick, the mind cannot process the next steps. Control is lost. No more thinking; just moving, doing.
I stepped ahead of my place in line, and I rushed to the register before her credit card was swiped.
I told her how I had watched what had happened; how I wanted to help. Her eyes, sparkled with tears. I said I have baby boys of my own, and I know how hard it is. I wanted to make it easier and would pay for theirs, too.
At first, a kind refusal. Then, I asked her name and told her mine. Then I said the only name that mattered – Jesus.
That is all I said. No long prepared sermon, no scripture to recite.
She hugged me; she said she was a survivor; she knew.
And as fast as that final nod, she was gone. Hurrying out to check on her precious baby grandson.
The cashier told me how kind it was of me to do that. I told her of God’s provisions for me; how He did everything for me. I told her how I just want the boy to be okay and wish I could’ve done more.
She rang up my total, and I headed home in the cold night air.
“Out of the stump of David’s family will grow a shoot.”
I’ve wondered many things since that night – why didn’t I say more; did they bring him to the hospital; did he get the care he needed?
Then He comes near, so quietly and gently, like my son approaches our Christmas tree, all lit up.
And I know His name is enough.
It is not about what I said or did. It is about a shoot rising up to bring glory from the ash. It is about His new fruit; It is about a banner of salvation at Christmas time and always.
The intimate, infinite God coming to us in the form of an infant. His glory that sets our hearts ablaze and speaks through them in the hard, impatient, unpredictable places.
Who can tell a packed store of shoppers what only He is able to do, with only a single word-
I share this testimony as Advent is now upon us. As we consider our only hope, and the power of His name, do we really believe? Will our children?
We must be willing, and He is able. Even in the midst of chaos and long lines. Especially there.
I can think of no greater gift this season than the only name who can rescue the weary, scoop up the hurting and aching and pay our debt.
It is all about Jesus.
He loves the little children. Oh, how He loves us.
“He tends his flock like a shepherd. He gathers the lambs in His arms and carries them close to his heart. He gently leads those that have young.” Isaiah 40:11