Every day he’d march through the historic windy town of Ellensburg, turning right onto Main, passing by my store with the flapping Antiques flag. His warning blasted a block away, allowing time to move inside or duck behind something. Potential customers, eyeing the sidewalk display of old iron beds and steamer trunks, would follow me as I’d slip through the door. From a safe distance, we’d cringe at the sound of his angry words. As the clamor of the one man parade blew by, they’d look to me, eyes wide, faces begging for solace and comfort.
“Blankety blankety blank blank blanking blank blank!” he’d scream, shaking a fist at the invisible tyrant walking next to him.
“It’s okay. He’s harmless, “ I’d say, peeking out from behind a gargantuan 19th century wardrobe. “It’s a form of Tourette’s Syndrome.” Noting their distrust, I’d add, “ Really. Nothing to worry about.”
One day, while on a ladder washing my store front windows, I hear the cursing turn the corner. There’s no time to scurry down the ladder, so I stay put, pretending oblivion to his noisy presence. I feel guilt and shame for being afraid. How can I shun a human being as if he’s invisible? It’s wrong.
Town talk claims he’s not violent, yet everyone seems to avoid him, and store owners complain that he runs off customers. My feelings of wrong doing linger, leading to eventual prayer and resulting in a sense of conviction. Befriending the cursing crusader became my mission. For starters, a simple greeting… Hmmm… Hello? … Good morning? … Howdy? … How ya doin’?
Every day, as the obscenities drew near, I’d pose in the door, ready to shout a cheer filled greeting. But as the angry banter closed in, I’d panic, stepping back through the door, breathing as if I’d just ditched a serial killer. This went on for days,… okay weeks… and some of that time I failed to even attempt communication.
Then, one day courage arrives (TA-DA!), like a late dinner guest I’d almost given up on. I was ready. When the string of expletives shadowed my door, I stood tall shouting above the swearing.
Glancing my way he replies.
“Blankety blankety blank blank blanking blank blank!”
What? I was shaken and confused. This is not what I expected. I did what I felt God would want me to do, and… and… he yelled at me!
I’ll get back to this story, there’s more, but let’s pause a moment.
Am I the only one who does this? Plays let’s make a deal with God? Spouts sentences, whether verbal or in thought like, “If I do this then you’ll do that. Right God? “If I’m good you’ll reward me and it will look like _______________ “ (fill in the blank).
His word says: Matthew 7:9 NIV: “Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Of course he doesn’t specify whether that bread will be white, dark, buckwheat or cinnamon toast. How many times have I thought God was not listening to my petitions, only to find out later that the answer was in front of me all along, just not as I’d pictured it. Worse yet, not the answer I wanted. God was not following the script I had prepared for him.
A simple personal example: My husband and I asked God to give us a sign if it was time to close our 16 year old antiques business. We’d asked this before when stress was high and sales were low. Each time, something obvious would happen that turned the business back around. So this time we were expecting something similar. Maybe that designer from Montana will show up with his big truck again, or the gals who bought out my entire line of estate jewelry will come back for more.
The morning after our prayer, news came that our last subcontractor was moving out. That meant we were losing money, not gaining. We should have thought immediately, “Oh, okay God, thanks for the prompt and clear response.” Instead, we scrambled, searching for ways to keep the doors open. Thank God, in the middle of a discussion to take on a hefty loan, we heard what He was saying.
Please know… I AM NOT saying we should shrink our expectations of God’s almighty power and desire to bless us. That’s not the point at all. He wants to bless our socks off. But, we, or at least I, don’t always recognize the blessing because it is not what I thought it should look like.
The timing was perfect for closing the business. Once we crawled out from under this burden, we could see the stress… the desperation. We’d been frantically bailing with a holey bucket, trying to keep afloat, safe from the sharks of failure. Little did we know God had a plan for us. Much better than our script… more creative… written by the Author of Happy Endings. Today we enjoy our home business, still dealing in antiques, but leisurely, with no overhead and stress free.
Back to the story…
I continued to greet the entrepreneurial cussing master. Days, weeks, months my exuberant greetings reaped only creative profanities. Then on a day no different than any other, it happened… after a simple “Hello.”
He stopped… motioned for the invisible antagonist on his left to wait, looked me in the eye and said, “Good Morning.”
Then he went back to yelling at his invisible debate partner.