The grocery store line was long. Really long.
“What is wrong with you idiots? Get another checker! This isn’t rocket science,” the young woman called out loud enough to be heard by everyone. “I have places to go. Come on now.” She reached into her back pocket for her iPhone. As she pulled it out of tight jeans, the draping top she wore sagged down low on one side to reveal her sports bra.
“That won’t work,” said a male voice. Jenny looked up into the eyes of the man behind her. “The cellphone I mean. They don’t work in this building.”
Jenny tried anyway, but the “No service” sign came up. She sighed.
“These people. What’s wrong with them?” she directed her voice toward the man, but she didn’t really want conversation. He had only had a handful of things in his cart. Why didn’t he just go to the fast check out? This line was going nowhere.
“I would love to get my hands on the manager of this place. I’d strangle him right here and now,” she continued.
Why was that man smiling such a nice smile? Jenny pulled her shoulders back just a bit. He was nice looking, that was for sure.
“Ah, ‘love.’ Please don’t use that word like that.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Love. It’s not for cursing. It is not a temporary good feeling either. It is a commitment of the self.”
“Heck. Love is just how my honey makes me feel. Which is pretty good.” Jenny was feeling a bit nervous. Was this guy some Bible thumper? She played with the lip balm containers and the mini-flashlights next to her.
“I know about Tessa. And before her you lived with Ralph. None of that is LOVE, dear. Don’t you want to experience real Love?”
Jenny jerked herself around to face the man. He must be a stalker! She hadn’t seen him before but stalkers hide, right?
“Who are you? You just stay out of my business!”
Jenny’s movements pushed her cart into the lady in front of her. The woman cussed loudly and pushed the cart back. Jenny fell toward the man’s cart.
He held out his hand to steady her arm. The carts stopped moving. The angry lady ahead had her hand poised to strike Jenny, but the man stopped her. “Ma’am. It was my fault. I’m so sorry. Can I buy you a soda to make up for it?” He was already reaching around to the soda case and pulled out a large Vanilla Coke.
The woman dropped her hand and grinned. “My favorite! How did you know?” The man was now looking past Jenny toward the other woman.
“Love is not a word that means a temporary source of pleasure for you. Love is when someone cares enough about you to want the best for you. The best for your life here on earth and the best for your soul.”
“You are a crazy stalker,” said Jenny. She couldn’t believe this guy knew the names of her recent lovers. Currently she was with a woman yeah. It was an experiment, an act of rebellion against the world.
“Hey, girl,” it was the large woman who wanted to slap her. “This guy has some meaningful things to say. Maybe we should just listen.”
The man was smiling with such kindness his face seemed to glow.
The big lady spoke up again. “Could you tell us more? I can’t think of anyone who cares about me like you said, except maybe my dad.”
“Ah. Parents are a wonderful example of love. Your family, Sarah, was a good one. Your mom and dad loved each other and were determined to raise their kids to be ready for heaven.”
Yup. Now Jenny knew. She had a nutcase here. A Bible thumper. But the line was not moving at all. She was stuck.
The woman, Sarah, didn’t seem to care that this guy knew her name. She asked him to say more.
“When a man and a woman come together and invite God into their relationship, they have the strength to really Love. They dedicate themselves to supporting each other and raising children to be godly.”
Sarah looked like she was gonna cry.
“When your mother died, your father started to drink. He stopped turning to the Church. You felt a bit lost back then.”
Sarah shook her head up and down and then looked at Jenny. “He’s right. That’s what it was like.”
“You stopped listening to the Church and started listening to the world. You’ve had three husbands. But you are getting ready for real love now. Just remember that love means sacrifice. Put Joseph in your heart. Tell him where he’s going wrong–by joining that Jehovah’s Witness group. Invite him to St. Mary’s.”
Sarah looked surprised. “Joseph is so good to me. I was planning on joining his church. It would make him happy.”
“No, dear. You have to remember that true love is concerned with the eternal…what about his soul? He needs the truth of the Church. When are you going to invite him to St. Mary’s?”
Sarah looked away for a minute. She stared over the magazine shelf. Then she turned back to the man.
“I just said a quick prayer. And I think you’re right. I do love Joseph so I have to care about the health of his soul.”
Jenny was now ready to push her cart through the man so she could go to a different aisle. But Sarah put a hand on her shoulder. “Honey, you sure are pretty. I think you’ll find real love, but don’t sell yourself short like I did.”
The man was now backing his cart out of the aisle. The people behind him were backing up too. “Jenny, if you want to leave you can. I didn’t mean to block your way.”
“OK already. Go ahead with your lecture.”
The man smiled. Sarah kept her hand on Jenny’s shoulder.
“Here is something I’d like to share with both of you…love is not defined by sex. Sex is defined by love. You have both experienced it…Sex makes people vulnerable. If that sense of being vulnerable and open is not wrapped in commitment, love and holiness, then it damages the two people. So the answer is chastity until marriage. Then, and only then, is sex a gift of the self to another.”
Sarah was looking at the man with wide eyes. She seemed to know what he was talking about. But for Jenny, she had to reach far back in her memory to find any references to this. How could people be so different?
“People today seem to think chastity restricts their freedom. But the truth is all the best things, all the love and happiness you desire, require self discipline. Discipline and self control makes you stronger. You know that…”
He was looking through Jenny. Did he know she had been on the track team before she dropped out of college? They trained three hours a day. They had to eat the right foods and avoid alcohol. She always felt better and ran better when she followed this discipline.
“There are always things we need to avoid in this life. For example, Tessa is a friend. But she is not a partner for sex. God, the Father, made his creatures male and female so that the woman would leave her parents and join with the man to create a family. That’s what marriage is, dear.”
The line was starting to move now. Sarah had to put her groceries on the conveyor belt. “Sir, can I ask who you are? If you are a priest, I’d like to come to your church,” Sarah said.
But the man was waving other people to go in front of him. He looked back toward Sarah and Jenny with that big smile. “I have one more thing I need to tell you both: you will only discover who you are, when you forget yourself and LOVE others.”
There were now two carts behind Jenny…the first cart was pushed by a couple who had a little girl in the cart seat. Behind them were two teenage girls wearing short shorts. It was hard to see the man.
Jenny called out, ”Tell us your name. And what about Sarah’s Coke?”
But the man was gone. The couple behind her looked confused. And the little girl covered her ears.
Jenny looked at them apologetically. “There was a man who was talking to us about love, did you see him? Oh, what a beautiful little girl she is.”
The mother beamed at Jenny. The father nodded. “What did the man say? We heard his last comment. Something about love means to forget yourself.” The father turned toward the back of the line. “He seems to have disappeared.”
Jenny said, “I’ll tell you what he said while we wait. But first, can you grab a Vanilla Coke from that case for me? I need to buy it for my friend Sarah.”
Jenny’s experience in the grocery line is based on the Biblical story of the Samaritan woman at the Well. Jesus talked kindly to the woman AND He named her sins. She had had five husbands and was living with a man she wasn’t married to. (John 4:7-42) Because Jesus spoke to kindly and also told her about truth and salvation she learned great lessons. She spread the word that we can be saved even if we have been sinners! Others came to believe that Jesus is the Savior of the World through the testimony of this woman! We can assume she changed her life dramatically after this amazing encounter!
Jesus showed us what LOVE is really about. He is God, the King of Kings. Yet He left behind His glory. He became one of us with the toughest of life experiences—poverty, refugee status, mockery, torture, false accusations and a cruel death. And He endured all of that out of love for each of us.
You and me—we are called to be heroic in love and virtuous in life.
No matter how we have lived up until this moment, we can change. Remember this–life on earth is temporary but the afterlife is FOREVER. No pleasure on earth is worth going to hell for.
All we have to do is Repent and turn toward the real love of Jesus Christ. Then the mercy of God will strengthen us for the next steps!!
Does this mean that Jesus doesn’t love us until after we have changed? Certainly not!
But Jesus is like a father who shows love while also correcting the child who is doing unhealthy things. Jesus loves us even in our sinfulness. And He came to earth to give us the strength to push away those temptations and renounce those sins. He loves us too much to let us stay in the misery of sin!
Like the women in the grocery line…it’s time to share the story of the love that saves. This love calls us to truth and JOY!!
“Our hearts are restless until they rest in Him.” (St. Augustine)
© 2015 Judith Costello. All rights served.
Photography: See our Photographers page.