My daughters will be junior bridesmaids in my cousin's wedding in a few weeks. This past Friday, we made the trip to a very large shopping mall to find dresses for the occasion. The bride was very kind to allow the girls to choose a dress as long as it was right color. Seems so simple doesn't it? With three girls and three very different styles and opinions, we had challenges before us.
My oldest had instant success and this mom breathed a sigh of relief and thought surely this was a sign from God that we would be in and out of that shopping Mecca in a flash. But no. For the next hour, we began to wander from store to store and into every boutique with a dress in the window. We had trouble finding anything suitable. Can I just say there are not many appropriate dresses for 12 year olds and 7 year olds? Finally, my youngest daughter found something, however, she has let us know it is extremely itchy, not comfortable, and she might not be able to hold her flowers still.
Thirst and hunger began to set in but we pushed onward. My 12 year old was extremely forlorn and believed she would NEVER find anything. I reminded her this wedding was not about her and that surely a dress existed that looked just fine. But I'm mom and everything I say deserves a sigh and an eye roll. And then we spotted Macy's. I suggested we go in and give it a try...as we walked toward the back of the store we saw color and sequins, silk and taffeta. We had hopefully hit fashion pay dirt.
My daughter found several possible dresses and we headed to the dressing room. There was a sitting area outside there and a kind man in his late 50s or 60s sat outside the dressing room door reading his phone. May I say that husbands who sit outside dressing rooms and hold purses are a special sort? Knowing how exasperated my 12 year old was and how tired we all were, I looked at my mom and other daughters who plopped down with their packages and I stood before them, folded my hands and began praying out loud, "Dear Jesus, we need one of these dresses to work, please encourage us with the right dress. Amen." I opened my eyes and asked my mom, "You think Jesus cares about this?" She said, "I'm sure Jesus cares, yes." I raised my hand to the ceiling and said, "Thank you, Jesus."
The sweet man by the door looked at me and said, "Jesus? You know Jesus?" I looked at him and sat down by him and said, "Oh yes!" In the back of my mind, I wondered if I had offended him. My mom told him that Jesus was our friend. He then told us that Jesus was a prophet and teacher. I countered and said, "He was much more than that, Jesus is God!" My mom and daughter became quiet and turned to face him. He smiled and I smiled and he replied, "Jesus never called himself God in the Bible. Do all of you Christians really believe that?"
"Oh, yes", I said, "Jesus says He is the way the truth and the life, and no one comes to the Father but through Him. Jesus calls himself the door - if you want to know the Father, you must walk through the door and that means you accept Jesus and believe in salvation through Jesus. He is equal to the Father." I encouraged him to read the Book of John. He nodded and was genuinely interested and maybe intrigued. I then asked him if he heard of the Trinity - the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. I said each person is separate and one at the same time. He shook his head as if this was unbelievable. I said, "How about water? You know water, right?" He nodded. I continued telling him that water can be liquid, solid and gas, but it's still water - God is like this - He is the Father, He is the Son and He is the Holy Spirit.
At this point the dressing room area felt electric - it's the only way I can describe it. I asked where he was from and he said Dubai. He described life there and how he came to the US to get his daughter a bone marrow transplant. We listened to her story and encouraged him about her treatment. This man and is wife were also attending a wedding and he was waiting on his wife who was also seeking the right dress.
My daughter then appeared wearing one of her choices and this man saw her first. He grinned and said, "She is beautiful! Is she yours?" As my daughter appeared it looked as though a fairy godmother had fit her with the perfect dress. She was lovely and demure. She was so pleased with herself and I breathed a prayer of thanksgiving.
It was getting late into the evening and we had a long drive home. I stood up and thanked this man for our discussion and explained we needed to purchase our dress and go home. (I was secretly afraid my daughter would change her mind and want to search longer! We had to seal the deal!) We made our way to the cashier and he thanked us for our chat, smiled and nodded.
I was stunned. Stunned that God would use a girls' shopping trip for bridesmaid dresses to share the love of His son. I told my daughter the dress was not about her, it was about the bride, but in reality it was about Jesus. I realized we were led to that department store at that perfect moment to encounter this man and to share about the perfect love of the Father and His Son, Jesus. Even though this man was a different religion and culture, he was open to hear and we were open towards him. There was no heated debate, but an exchange. No one wished harm or ill, we each sought understanding.
I forgot to get this man's name so I could pray for him by name but God knows who He is. I pray he is one step closer to knowing that Jesus was more than just a good man. I pray my daughters were encouraged that God uses all things for His glory including trips to shopping malls.
Finally, 1 Peter 3:15 became real to me for the first time:
But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect...
One never knows where they might encounter someone seeking to know Christ...it may not always be the places you would you expect. God will use you anywhere - even the shopping mall - are you prepared?