Thursday, August 2, 2018

How My Shirt Changed the Day

For the second time in a month, I had a conversation in the grocery checkout line that left me reeling. This time it began while unloading my produce and grinning at the two big-eyed, energetic young boys behind me. Their mom caught my eye and and she looked friendly as she inquired, "What is that?" The red cabbage in my hand? I thought. "I'm sorry, my produce?" She clarified, "I've seen those shirts on people around town, what is it?" 

"Oh, it's from an organisation that helps women get ultrasounds and see their help them stay healthy. They sort of hang out around planned parenthood facilities and help women want to keep their baby. You know, save a stork, since people say babies are delivered by storks." I smiled as I made air quotation marks around the word storks.

It wasn't the most eloquent or elegant thing I've ever said, but it was the grocery line, and it was moving pretty quickly. She looked engaged, so I was startled when she said, "Oh, so you're against abortion, I get it." I quickly replied that I was pro-life and she said,  "I thought it was going to be something cute." I said the first thing that popped into my head, "Well, your little guys are awfully cute." Her response stunned me, "Yeah, well, we planned each one of them. I donate to planned parenthood every year because I believe in science. I take them to the library so they can read more than one book." As it was my turn to check out, I responded that her comment made me sad and that I, too, read more than One Book. 

I wished them a good evening when I was finished, then walked to my car. Tears welled up in my eyes as a response whispered its way out of my mouth, "But planned parenthood cuts babies into pieces. How could anyone support that?" 

More tears made driving blurry as I thought of all the things I could have said to that kind-looking woman in just ten seconds: "I believe in science, too. A baby has DNA from the time the egg and sperm meet, and its heart begins to beat at fourteen days. When someone ends an innocent human heartbeat, we call it murder, don't we?"

The words of the song I was listening to pierced my heart:
"I try so turn away and not become
Another nail to pierce
The skin of One who loves
More deeply than the ocean
More abundant than the tears
Of a world embracing every heartache"*

A world embracing every heartache, I thought. Embracing pain under the name and guise of science, knowledge. And yet it is lack of Knowledge that blinds them, and they swallow the pill, not to kill the pain but to kill the increase the heartache. 

Then came the angry tears—for the second time in recent weeks, I had failed to share truth with someone in an adequate way. I was so unprepared in the moment to give that ten second reply, because I simply hadn't thought to prepare any words to say if someone asked me. I hadn't planned to have to explain my shirt when I debated about what to wear in the morning. I had gone back and forth and finally landed on my Save the Storks shirt because it's one of my favourites. I briefly thought that it was a bummer so few people ever asked me about the shirt. So, I didn't prepare. I walked into a store minding my own business, and my shirt changed the tenor of the evening. One simple choice this morning opened up a conversation... A conversation that I wanted to have, but where I failed to say anything beyond, "That makes me sad," when I had much more I could say. Much more I wish I had said.

How can I give someone food for thought if I'm not prepared with my own questions to counter theirs? I want to be kind, but I also want to make people think. I want to ask something for their own mind to to close around, rather than simply making insipid replies to their questions. 

Last time I was in that same grocery, I was totally unprepared for the conversation that sprang up in the checkout line. There was no way I could have known a question as simple as, "Where do you go to church?" from the cashier would lead to them telling me that they were in the midst of a gender transition. This time I could have been prepared for the questions, but I wasn't. 

Slow as I am, I'm realising that I should pray for the Lord to direct my mind and conversations before I step into that grocery—or any other grocery. And not only the grocery, but also restaurants and the sidewalks of my town; before I drive my car and as I prepare for each day. Perhaps, like the scores of other times I've walked into the grocery or worn this shirt other places, nothing will happen. But what about the one time in the midst of those scores when someone asks the question, when someone blurts out their hurt or their heart? To be ready in that moment means to pray before all of the moments that might be. 

*— Worlds Apart by Jars of Clay

** If you would like to learn more about Save the Storks, this video shows what they do to help women, born and unborn, around the country.


  1. Beautiful, candid, vulnerable writing, Jody. I love your heart to always be ready to speak the truth in love. It convicts me, too, reminding me to be ready for the same. Thank you. How often have I been "on autopilot" and missed opportunities to share Christ to others? Only He knows!

    At the same time, I think it's important to temper the desire to provide excellent answers with the understanding that we cannot make anyone else take truth to heart. Our job is to sow the seeds of truth. Where those seeds fall, in what condition the soil is when they do, there we have no control. That's between God and the soil.

    This is not to say that, because we live in an ever darkening world where the truth grows all the more relative, we have any lisence to slack in our speaking the truth. Far from it! We work all the more fervently to keep our love warm. We must.

    May the Lord lead you on, faithful and true, and may you keep your gaze fixed on Him. Bless you, friend.

    1. Bless you for your words, Danielle!

      It is easy to be on autopilot (I sure was today when I stopped at a different spite of this event just short days ago). I think that is a favourite tactic of the world, the flesh, *and* the devil—just cruise through your minutes, errands, and days on autopilot... Rather than reaching out with a smile, a kind word, or a sliver of truth in the narrow moments afforded to us in parking lots, grocery lines, in greeting the mailman, etc. I see it and I can say it, but to be truly engaged takes prayer and practise!

  2. I would echo what Danielle has said above.. we struggle with the desire to have the "right" answer. We want to respond so as to change the other person's heart and mind in a way that we can see and feel good about.
    Your response that her comment made you sad sounds and feels inadequate to you. I have been there-- you replay the scene in your mind, thinking of all the better things you might have said, all the ways you might have won that battle. It feels like Satan laughs at our feeble attempts, and the sarcastic words and smug expressions pierce like a hundred little arrows. The taunts about reading more than one book and believing in science-- they are barbs designed by the Enemy to hurt you and make you angry. And they work-- they are hurtful, and based on his lies. But there are other lies he would like you to accept-- that your response wasn't enough; that God demands more of you than honesty and kindness; that you have failed God by not "scoring a point" in this encounter.
    The truth is that your response shows a heart that is broken and spilled out before God over the evil that is Abortion. She had sarcasm and science, and she used them as weapons to make you feel sad because your shirt made her uncomfortable. She may have imagined that you wore the shirt with the same motive. May I suggest that your response may have been just what God needed her to see in that moment-- that her anger and disdain didn't call forth the same response from you. You showed a kind of grace that she may not see often--the grace of a pure heart, a gentle spirit, and eyes that are saddened by evil instead of calloused to it. You showed her the kind of heart that only Christ can create-- a heart free of disdain or clever barbs designed to hurt the people you meet. Your responses may have felt insipid, but what if they were Spirit-infused?--You did plant a seed--you did give her food for thought-- some fruit of the spirit! Your answers showed gentleness, kindness, goodness, love, self-control, even joy (at meeting her children).
    This is all easier for me to say or write than to do-- I want to be seen as clever and confident for Christ, never callow or clumsy. But God confounds the so-called wisdom of the wise, and He has been known to use my own stumbles and slack-jawed stammering instead of my carefully-worded eloquence to break up the ground and plant the seed.
    Of course, He still wants us to pray for guidance and ready answers-- but consider that sometimes, He works through us in spite of us. For starters, you now have several readers who will likely be praying for this anonymous woman (and her children) to rethink their arrogant assumptions about abortion, and for you to be comforted, strengthened, and encouraged.

    1. Thank you for your encouraging words, Lila!

      To be honest, I wasn't thinking about winning an argument, I just felt like I had missed an opportunity to "put a pebble" in this wonman's shoe, as it were. To ask a question or offer a reply that would help her see from another perspective. But as you said, now I'm not alone in praying for her and her children to have their hearts softened to the Truth and the Love of God.

      And you're right, perhaps my sorrow will be a better pebble in her shoe than anything I could have asked or said. I pray it is.