For my first venture out of the house after surgery, Janice decided that, despite my mobility restrictions, we should go to Costco. So, she shopped while I stood in line, ordering lunch — Costco’s famous cheap hot dogs. By the time she returned with our few items, I gave her our order receipt and claimed a nearby table. As I was sitting down, a father and his (maybe) 2-year-old son rolled up next to me.
From beneath the bill of a Detroit baseball cap, through a bushy, bases-loaded, black beard, Daddy lifted the boy from the giant cart and spoke directly and somewhat sternly to the little person, now balancing on the metal table seat: “You must sit by yourself, while I go and order lunch. OK?” With the look of absolute innocence and total obedience that 2-year-olds master early on, he smiled back at Daddy, balanced his tiny body, and said, “OK, Daddy. I love you!” “I love you more!” Daddy replied, as he turned on his cowboy-booted heels and approached the counter to order their grub.
My heart melted as I tried to imagine the back story to the drama happening just in front of me. Where was Mommy? Was there a divorce, shared custody, and this was Daddy’s weekend with Junior? Was this a stay-at-home Dad just out doing the weekly shopping? Was Mommy sick (or worn out) and Daddy had agreed to give her some peace and quiet while making a Costco run? Or do Daddy and Junior routinely go shopping together?
Since their cart was filled with diapers, small pizzas, and other necessities for small-child rearing, all I could conclude with certainty was that the Costco run was coming just in time.
While I could not divine the actual situation-in-life which these two were impersonating, I decided what was more important for me was to simply appreciate this loving plot-line they were following. When Daddy returned with one, quarter-sized pizza on a flimsy paper plate, the two repeated their “Love you/Love you more” mantra one more time.
Have you ever seen a fully-grown man balance a hot, cheese-melting, too-large piece of pizza while simultaneously scooping up a toddler and locating him in his lap and, without missing a beat, the man and boy commence to eat together from different sides of that same, supersized piece of pizza? Well, I have!
While it is customary to differentiate between the sacred and the profane, to distinguish between “holy ground” and “not holy ground,” today I am refuting that notion. Right there, in the giant Costco warehouse, only feet from the free cardboard boxes, with the digital sounds of cash registers ringing up sales, sitting on a hard metal picnic table while waiting for Janice, I experienced grace, salvation, agape love, divine presence and undeniable providence, as great as I have ever seen or known. And it was all in the middle of ordinary, routine grocery shopping and smelly fast-food, while waiting for 2 buck-fifty hotdogs and a Pepsi.
Bob Newell has served as a university professor and administrator, a local church pastor and a cross-cultural missionary. He and his wife, Janice, now live in Georgetown, Texas, and he serves churches as transition coach and intentional interim pastor. They were the founders and remain advocates of PORTA, the Albania House in Athens, Greece.
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