I was always taught that unmerited favor was called grace. But this week, I’ve learned to call her Claudia.
Claudia works in food services here at Lipscomb. More specifically, she operates the cash register at the downstairs food court in the student center. She’s an African American, I’m guessing in her 50’s, with a sweet smile and an even sweeter spirit. I first met Claudia a few weeks ago when I was here for Samuel. Toward the end of that week, she struck up a conversation with me one afternoon at the check out line. I’d walked over during our mid-afternoon break, desperate for a beverage to keep me awake for the stretch run of the day’s lecture. But I encountered a most refreshing individual when I approached Miss Claudia to pay for my drink.
“Son, you look awfully tired,” she said with a wink.
“Yeah,” I said. “Been sitting in class all day.”
“All day?” she asked incredulously. “What kind of class you have to take all day?”
I explained to her I was a graduate student in the Bible program.
“You a preacher?” she asked.
“Kind of,” I replied. I think that won her over.
“Oh, sugar, you just hang in there. You’re here doing the LORD’s work, and He ain’t gonna let you down. He’ll give you what you need.” Her head nodded furiously as she spoke with deep conviction.
I’m starting to like this lady, I thought. You don’t always get theology at the check out counter.
I thanked her for her kind words and asked her what I owed her.
“Oh, baby, you don’t have to pay for that drink. You take it and go on back to class.” Taken aback, I offered to pay again but again I was rebuffed. Not one to look a gift horse in the mouth or eye or whatever, I thanked her and went on my way.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve developed something of a relationship with Miss Claudia. Granted, I’ll admit, I’ve saved quite a bit on my beverage budget since she came into my life. (It’s funny because I’ve been working on a term paper this week from 2 Samuel 24 where David, after Araunah offers him the oxen for the burnt offering, says, “I will not sacrifice to the LORD my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing.” The irony of all this has not been lost on me.)
But it’s not just the bottomless fountain drinks that I’ve come to appreciate. I’m an introvert by nature, not prone to carrying on conversations with people I love, much less women at cash registers. But I’ve come to see Claudia for the gentle, nurturing spirit she is. Miss Claudia has become a part of the daily routine for Corey and me. In the morning, she’ll ask us about the previous day’s class. Yesterday, she asked us about our long term plans for ministry. We found out earlier in the week that Claudia is a vegetarian. She has grandkids. She is strong in her faith, one of those individuals with the ability to be conversational about her faith and her LORD without being showy. I don’t know why she’s so kind to us. Maybe she has a place in her heart for hungry looking seminary students. Maybe she thinks we’re related to a board member. I don’t know. But she’s reminded me of a simple truth: when I share my life with another, I open myself up to a joyous, grace-filled experience. Miss Claudia and I are about as different as two people can be, at least from a worldly perspective. But by the grace of our great God, we can celebrate that which we share in common: namely, Jesus Christ. I count her as a dear sweet sister. I don’t deserve to know her.
May He be good to you, Miss Claudia. I’m sure you put a smile on His face as surely as you put one on mine…