I had the most terrifying experience over Christmas break. It ranks in the top 10 of my life at least. We had the exceedingly good fortune of seeing some of our dearest friends after Christmas. We found out, quite by accident, that they had gathered in St. Louis. We dropped everything, threw the kids in the car and got on the road for the 4 hour drive to St. Louis -- a 4 hour drive that turned into 6 1/2. I'll save that story for later. Part of the reason that it took so long is that at any given moment one of us has to go to the bathroom and it never seems that we have to go in the same moment. Anyway, just as we were getting into St. Louis, I HAD to go. Grudgingly, Lonnie pulled off at yet another exit and we began a desperate search for anything that was open. Finding nothing open (even Walmart was closed. What is with this place?), Lonnie banged on the door at McDonald's. A woman came to the door and he begged her to let me in - God bless him! And God bless her, she agreed to let me in.
It is amazing the amount of detail one can absorb in a couple of seconds. First, I noticed she was pregnant. Second, she was African American. Third, she had a gang tattoo on her neck. Fourth, she showed absolutely no emotion at all. With a completely blank face, she informed me that she could get in trouble for letting me in. I thanked her profusely, expecting something in her face to change, but still nothing. I ran into the bathroom as she began arguing with someone behind the counter that I could not see. Hastily – in record time – I finished my business and bolted out the door. As I was getting into my nice warm Honda Pilot, a beat-up, barely-running little car pulled up and my unlikely hero walked out with the same detached expression and got in the car.
It doesn’t take a prophet to discern her life. It took me about 3 seconds and trust me, I'm no prophet. Obviously, she leads an extremely difficult life. I began to wonder just how she ended up there. What choices put her here? What came first? Did her pregnancy force her into a fast food job or to seek protection in a gang? Or did her gang involvement lead to the pregnancy and then the dead end job? Perhaps her life is the result of choices of others. Could a hastily made decision of someone else have begun the spiral of misery and poverty in her? Had her mother or father or grandmother made different choices would it have changed anything for this young woman? I will never know, but I will never forget the complete hopelessness in her countenance. She had absolutely nothing to smile about.
I am still thinking about choices and the power they hold. The story of Esther is most intriguing to me. The story begins when Queen Vashti refuses to answer King Xerxes’ invitation. The Bible isn’t really clear on why she found his invitation so demeaning, but for whatever reason, she chose to refuse the King thus openly rebuffing his wishes. The King didn’t seem to fully grasp the consequences of her choices, but his advisers did. They realized that Vashti was exemplifying a rebellion that would infect all the women in the kingdom. They claimed that if the king did nothing about Vashti’s disobedience, all the women of the kingdom would begin to despise their husbands. (I am struggling to keep my feministic tendencies at bay! There is a bigger picture to see.) Vashti’s choice got her fired and her position was filled with someone who had better decision making skills. Thus an entire nation was saved because of Esther’s choices.
I am thinking about the choices my grandmother and mother made that shaped who they were and who I am. I am a direct result of the choices they made. This is extremely sobering to me. I highly doubt that any of my choices will have any national consequences, but I have kids. What choices am I making that are affecting Levi and Reagan? Am I doing something that will have long-term or even eternal significance to them? The attitude of our culture is so selfish. How many times have you heard “I can do whatever I want. I am not hurting anybody”? But are your actions really harmless? Could your choice possibly initiate a chain reaction that you never intended? This thought has caused me to think twice, to use extreme caution when making choices. I want my kids to declare confidently that their mother is a Christian, just as I declared of my mother and grandmother.