As for Philip, an angel of the Lord said to him, “Go south down the desert road that runs from Jerusalem to Gaza.” So he started out, and he met the treasurer of Ethiopia …
To read today’s portion of scripture, you can purchase The One Year Bible or find the following in your Bible:
1 Kings 9:1-10:29
When I walked through the automatic doors of the grocery store that night, I had one goal: find a can of cream of mushroom soup, buy it, and get back to my car as quickly as possible. I’d already been to the store twice that day. Those trips had been squeezed in between a whole lot of cleaning, errand running, and baking. Enough was enough, so this was going to be a very quick, very uninteresting run through the store.
But my plans changed when I heard my instructions. You’re going to walk down every aisle and look at every item on the shelves. It wasn’t an audible voice, but it may as well have been. The impression was so strong and so urgent that despite my weariness, I veered right as I crossed the automatic doors and grabbed a cart … for one can of soup.
I don’t argue with the Lord. I’ve learned there’s always a reason for those insistent whispers.
I started in produce and examined the neat piles of avocados and mangos and limes. I meandered past meat and noticed that pot roast was on sale. I checked out tortillas and cereal and coffee —- all the while wondering what I was waiting for.
An aisle or two after I grabbed my cream of mushroom soup, I overheard a young couple wondering where the soup was. So I escorted them back to the right aisle and pointed out that the store brand was 29 cents cheaper than the name brand.
I kept walking, kept looking. Forty-five minutes passed, and I still had only one can of cream of mushroom soup in my cart. But then I turned down aisle two and found out why God had stalled me.
I turned and saw my friend. I’ll call her Maggie. Maggie — my beautiful, wild, restless friend. I hadn’t seen her in almost two years, not since this mother of four left her husband to go feel young again. She didn’t return phone calls and she didn’t loiter in areas where she might run into any of the old church crowd. But she hadn’t anticipated aisle two.
I hugged her and told her she looked good, but I lied. She looked exhausted. She had the look of a woman who’d galloped hard only to find the horizon held nothing better than what she’d run from. I knew she’d met a lot of new men and returned to a lot of old, destructive habits, and it showed. She looked hardened and jaded and much, much older than the girl I’d last seen.
“Are you okay?” I asked.
She nodded and gave me the brightest fake smile she could muster. “I’m living in an apartment near here.”
“I’d love to sit down and talk sometime,” I said. To remove the guarded look from her face, I added, “I won’t lecture; I’ll just listen.”
“We’ll do that,” she said, but I knew better. This would be my one chance. I had to make it count.
“We all miss you.”
“You mean you’re all angry with me,” she countered.
“No. We’re sad, Maggie, but no one is mad at you. We love you.”
She scoffed. “Some have an odd way of showing it.”
I knew who she referred to. Another couple had been very firm with Maggie when she left her husband. Their last, tough-love conversation had not gone well. The woman —I’ll call her Sarah — had taken Maggie’s leaving particularly hard.
“I saw Sarah not long ago,” I said. “When I asked her if she’d heard from you or knew how you were doing, she burst into tears. She cried for fifteen minutes straight. You can’t believe how much she misses you.”
“Well, I don’t need friends like that. You have no idea the things they said to me.”
“You’re right,” I agreed. “I don’t know. I only know that sometimes, when you love someone and you’re frightened for them, you say whatever you must to keep them from making a mistake.”
She tried to change the subject. “It’s so weird running into you here. I didn’t know you shopped out this way.”
“I don’t think it’s weird. I think it’s God, Maggie. I think He wants you back.”
She shook her head slowly. “I’m not sure I believe in God anymore.”
“It doesn’t matter. Even if you don’t believe in Him, He won’t stop reaching out to you. He’ll never give up, because He loves you. We all do. And we’ll be here when you’re ready to let us back in.”
I’m sure she didn’t want me to see the tears forming in her eyes, but I did. “I’ll call you sometime,” she said. “I promise.” She reached for me and hugged me, long and tightly.
“Please do,” I said. And she was gone.
I cried all the way home. That was more than a year ago, and I haven’t seen or heard from Maggie again. I knew I wouldn’t. But I know something else. I know that the God who sent me to aisle two won’t give up on my friend. He watches her when she sleeps and He watches her when she runs, and the second she stops running and turns for a tentative peek over her shoulder, He’s going to scoop her up and carry her home.
Oh, I pray she peeks soon.