I spent the morning interviewing a sweet pastor’s wife and was still enjoying the glow of our time together when I walked into Ross to make a few random purchases. I replayed our conversation as I perused the isles and filled my cart. When I approached the check-out near the front of the store I noticed two muscular black men by the cologne and watches. They were casually eyeing the merchandise.
My first impression was that they resembled professional athletes. One had a long mane of dreadlocks, the other was sporting a sweet fade. Both had handsome faces with warm eyes. I wondered if they were friends or brothers. I regarded them further and found myself thinking that I hardly ever see black men in this store, especially in the middle of a weekday.
They ended up cart-less in line directly behind me. One of them held something small in his hand. We waited for the next available clerk. For some reason I was drawn to them and wanted to stare at them; to maybe walk over and tell them that I thought God made them very beautiful and, in some way, affirm them. We exchanged polite smiles instead.
As I waited to unload my shopping cart all the media on racial tension came to mind. I’d been watching the news; the white-hating, cop-killing ugliness retaliated by outraged blacks who feel targeted by a law enforcement who murders their young men. I thought about how the Black Lives Matter movement got ample media coverage but the 30,000 strong All Lives Matter experienced a media blackout.
What did these young men think about all this racial craziness? How do they feel living in a predominately white and Hispanic community? What is it like to walk into a store and be the only one like you? What does it feel like to be regarded suspiciously simply because of the color of your skin?
I felt a strong tug on the inside. In lieu of the maternal hug I wanted to give them, I prayed for them. And I prayed for my grandson, a young black man growing up in a racially divided culture rabid with prejudice.
I paid the clerk, pushed my cart to the door, and retrieved my bags and area rug—why in the world don’t they let you take their carts to your car? I tottered out the door like a fifty-something woman with a full bladder. Just as I reached the curb the armored truck service arrived to pick up money.
Boing!!! My brain sizzled an alert: Danger Will Robinson, danger!
All of a sudden these nice young men became villains. Their casual shopping was actually a calculated stalling maneuver. They were waiting for the armored truck. A robbery plan was being executed right here in the middle of my ordinary day!
I walked briskly to my car, as briskly as one trying to retain their urine can move. I pressed my key fob firmly but there was no beep signaling success at unlocking the door For some reason the key fob would not unlock my doors. I tried awkwardly to juggle five shopping bags, one area rug, my purse and my rebellious key fob.
Thoughts flashed through my mind with lightening speed and glaring clarity.
I was parked near the armored truck so I was extra anxious to get my things into the car and get away before the gunfire broke out. My heart pounded. My breath quickened. I was forced to disgorge my bags and set my purchases on the blacktop in order to extricate my key from the fob.
With shaking hands I ultimately unlocked the doors but in my nervous excitement I accidentally locked them again.
As I bent to gather the bags strewn at my feet I thought, This is how I’m going to die? Like this? Today?
When your life is about to end, I can guarantee that you won’t be thinking about how the area rug you just purchased is going to look under your kitchen table.
I nervously peeked over the SUV parked between my car and the armored truck. Did I still have time to peel out of the parking lot? Or should I just hunker down under the bags in my trunk and hide? Am I parked next to the getaway vehicle? Nobody was coming out of the store. NObody. How remarkable was it that I alone made it out of the store before mayhem and gunfire broke out?
But wait! They know I can identify them. I’ve got to get out of here NOW or I’m a dead woman for sure.
In what seemed a slow-motion race against time, and my demise, I fumbled the ignition and successfully started my car. As I looked out over the steering wheel in preparation to make my getaway, the two handsome men rolled slowly out of their parking spot and passed me. The passenger turned my direction. We made eye contact and he nodded. I smiled back, fighting the urge to run after them groveling– I’m so sorry. Please forgive me. Please forgive me. I’m so sorry!
But as David says in Psalm 51, “Against You, You only have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight….”
I sat humbly in that still moment of conviction graciously laid upon me. I sheepishly backed out of my parking spot broken by what was hidden in the folds of my heart.
The armored truck and I passed in the lane. The driver smiled at me and I maintain his expression said, “I know what you were thinking.”
WARNING: When you ask God to create in you a clean heart, be prepared for some painful house cleaning!
To those two beautiful men–those image-bearers of God, please don’t lose heart! Don’t give up on me and those like me—don’t give up on the dream of a world where love renders us race-blind.