It was some years ago, but I remember it in detail. I was working in a dental office next to a lady who was more than 20 years my senior. She was everything I believed then, I was not. She was classy, wearing perfectly neat layers of color with perfect accessories. Her hair was beautiful, with different folds of gold and copper. She was quiet, but not shy. She would often whisper insults my way. She seemed to simmer in some kind of unspoken bitterness and resentment toward me. Our employer was often complimentary of me in front of our team and often in her presence. I think this only stirred the contention.
I never really understood why this tension existed since we had never had an argument. Perhaps she had disdain for me because of my age or because of the attention I received from our employer or our patients. I don’t know. After two years of working together, she gave notice. She decided to leave our practice and move south to be with family. The other ladies I worked with were much like her, older, established, wealthy, fashionable and often joining her in circles of gossip. There was a clique created by these women and I was definitely on the outside. Who knows why this was. I certainly looked much different, wearing clothes from thrift stores, garage sales, or places like Walmart and Target. I had little leftover money once I paid my bills and rarely went out to eat, unlike their clique which went often to nice restaurants during our lunch hour. I spoke about my faith and my church with patients, if it came up in conversation. I wore barrettes, looked like Holly Hobby and was sort of a perceived “loner” who, as they often told me, “needed to get a life”.
Her last week in our office was full of well wishes, cakes and expensive gifts from the other ladies. They gave her crystal and gold earrings as going away gifts. I sat and watched these displays of excess and wondered what I could possibly offer to match or even come close to what the “clique” had given. I went to the grocery store that evening with the intention of going afterwards to Marshalls or Ross, hoping to find something nice and fairly expensive which had been significantly marked down and so hopefully affordable for me.
As I went through the isles of the grocery store, I prayed, “Lord, will You please help me to find a gift for (her name) that will bless her?” In my mind, I was still very focused on the things of the flesh, having only recently come to know Jesus and still learning my worth in Him. I so wanted to be liked and included. I wanted approval and acceptance. I hated standing out and being apart from what I perceived was the popular group. When I prayed, I was preparing in advance for my trip to the other stores. I always like to plan ahead, so praying in advance seemed like a good idea.
I continued shopping and suddenly heard very clearly from the Lord, “Buy her cereal.”
“What? Buy her cereal? No, Lord. You don’t understand. I need something NICE. I CAN’T give her CEREAL! She will think I’m ridiculous, a fool!”
But the Lord repeated Himself, “Buy her cereal.”
I remembered how she had spoken many times about the new cereal Kashi. She said she ate it as a snack before bed and had to be careful to not eat too much or she may gain weight. Stomping my feet in my heart, I very reluctantly surrendered, and went to the gift isle. I chose a large, pink gift bag and returned to the cereal isle to add 2 boxes of Kashi to the bag. They fit perfectly and there was still room for more. I prayed again, “Lord, is there anything else?” And, as I continued to shop, He reminded me of her favorite candy, her favorite gum, her favorite popcorn. Soon, the bag was full and I checked out.
My stomach felt sick. I feared the insults which would be thrown my direction and the laughing mocking the other ladies would offer as my co-worker opened her bag full of cereal and food. I was convinced “food” was NOT appropriate for a proper going away gift. I barely slept that night, somewhat irritated at God that He had not directed me toward something shiny and beautiful to give her, something that would make me look good. I stewed in my bad attitude all the way into the office the next morning. When I entered the front desk area, she was sitting alone in the corner. No one else had arrived yet, so I figured that would be the best time to give her my “gift”. I hardly stopped walking as I set the bag on the floor in front of her and said in almost a whisper due to my shame, “Um, I got you a going away gift. It’s probably stupid, but…here it is.”
I went to my desk on the other side of the short wall and waited. The office was quiet that morning and I could hear her moving through the tissue paper. Then, I heard tears. TEARS! She came over to me and said, “This is such a perfect gift! You bought me snacks for my drive. You gave me everything I love to eat and I don’t have to pack any of it! I can just take it with me in the front seat of the car. Thank you!”
I just stared at her in unbelief. WHY were there tears in her eyes? Why in the WORLD was she so emotional over boxes of cereal? I mean, it was CEREAL! I just responded with a quiet, “You’re welcome”, but felt like a hypocrite even saying that, as I didn’t want to give her that gift,…God did. And then, I remembered my prayer the night before, “Will You please help me to find a gift which would bless HER.” In my heart, I repented. I prayed silently, “Lord, I am so pathetic. The gift was for her and I wanted something for ME. Please help me to obey You right away next time and to trust You know best.”
I learned then and have seen it repeated time after time since, that God often calls us to do things that make absolutely no sense to our fleshly wisdom, yet are perfectly planned and orchestrated by His loving hand. He may call us to be fools for Him, laying down our reputation, in order to obey His direction. I don’t often like it, but I now know Him. I know He will never lead me somewhere He will not go with me. We will always go together. And, as I have been willing to do what He has asked of me, my faith has increased and this adventure of living the Christian life has been exciting and terrifying all at the same time! But, it is always an ADVENTURE! Oh me of little faith. I realize the more I know Jesus, the less I can rely on my own reasoning or intelligence. His ways are just NOT my ways and His thoughts are NOT my thoughts. He is GOD, Creator of all things. He knows EVERYTHING!
My encouragement to you, my dear friends, is be willing to give “boxes of cereal”. If you hear Him prompting you to do something which makes no sense, yet you know in your spirit, it is of the Holy Spirit, then do it. Delayed obedience is disobedience. Do it quickly and then watch and wait to see what God will do through it. I believe you will be quite amazed and it will only deepen your desire to know better the God of the Universe. ❤
5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
6 in all your ways submit to Him,
and He will make your paths straight.