Thursday, December 19, 2013

A Christmas Story

I have a Christmas story to tell you. It's a story about light and love shining into dark places, a story about following the lead when Spirit nudges, a story about bringing hope into someone's world.

Photo by Alex Dram via Flickr
It was December of 1990, or possibly late November, but the point is, it was the Christmas season. The fall had not been good to me, and maybe that's a play on words because it wasn't just autumn, it was me falling with no one to catch me and I was raw from a relationship gone all twisted and wrong, and in my pain I made decisions that were probably the right decisions but who can say with all this time gone by? I dropped out of school in my last semester. Yes, the very last one, with only my student teaching to go to make me a full-fledged English teacher. I quit it all and walked away, and I have no regrets now because God can redeem the most broken of situations, but at that time I was lost.

Going home wasn't an option for me, although it would have made more sense then living off the dwindling resource of my last student loan, trying to find a job for which I was neither overqualified nor under-qualified. As my account dwindled there were groceries delivered anonymously to my door, and there were friends who took me shopping when they found out I had no food. And they were their own little bits of light and love, so they are a part of this story.

When the Christmas season hit I finally found a job, just a seasonal job, working in the mall at the bookstore. I could tell you stories about the characters I met, so many of them their own kind of broken and wounded. I was down to my last dollars. Literally. Seven dollars in my bank account, and a gas tank that was threatening empty. I told myself I could make it until my first payday.

Payday arrived. I worked my shift and collected my check, leaving the mall in late afternoon to head for the bank and then the gas station. I never made it out of the parking lot. Well, to be precise, I made it out of the parking lot and on to the mall loop road and up to a stop sign. And then nothing. I sat there in my completely out of gas car as holiday shoppers pulled around me and went on their way, cars loaded down with bags of gifts. I'd like to say I was strong and knew exactly what to do, rising to the occasion with grit and determination. But I had no grit left and my determination, well...I'd spent a lifetime having it drilled out of me. So I did the only thing I had left to do. I cried.

And then a knock on my window and a woman asked "Are you ok?" And I probably sobbed out something about 'out of gas' and 'first payday' and 'thought I could make it to the gas station' and...and...and...

A man stopped and helped us move the car into a parking space. And then this woman, this complete stranger, loaded me into her station wagon (because those were still kind of a thing), drove me to the gas station and bought me some gas. She wasn't going to stop, she said, but she felt a nudge and she looked and saw my tears. And in that moment she chose to be light to me.

I'm not going to say that my world was instantly better because someone was kind. I didn't ride off into a sunset of joy and plenty. There were still struggles, there was still healing to be done. But I will tell you that I have NEVER forgotten that little flicker of hope that was lit that day. A hope that maybe I wasn't forgotten, wasn't beyond God's notice, wasn't finished yet.

And isn't that what Christmas is? That reminder that in the midst of our darkness, light came in. And that light started small but the darkness didn't overcome it and that light was the hope and the promise that we weren't beyond God's notice, that he wasn't finished with his plan yet, that salvation was near.


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