As I slowly walked through the crowded mall, savoring my first purchases and thanking Him for helping me find them, my eyes searched the store banners to see where to go next. I looked down to find a man dressed in some type of mechanic-looking work uniform stopped in front of me. He carried a small paper bag, and looked a little dirty - like he had just left work.
"Excuse me, ma'am, can I give you something?"
I hesitated, then, "OK." Not the "Sure, great, I'd love to see what you have, thank you for thinking of me," type of OK, but the suspicious "Um, well, I guess so, but can I trust you to not hurt me?" type of OK.
Sensing my discomfort, he said, "I like your shirt" as he reached out to hand me something. I looked down, and realized I had on my "God is Love" T-shirt as I received what he offered: a penny with a cross cut out of it. I looked up at him more closely, and noticed his kind eyes and gentleness...and I noticed in hindsight how he had smiled warmly when he approached me.
"Keep this to remind you of what Christmas is really all about. Merry Christmas!" As I thanked him and wished him the same, he smiled and turned to continue on his way.
I put the coin in my pocket and stopped for a minute to ponder what had just happened. Here I was in my "God is love" t-shirt, and my response to a stranger with a gift was immediate distrust. I didn't even give him a chance! My first instinct was to put up all my walls and go into defensive mode because I looked at his clothes and not his face. In the midst of an intimate shopping moment with the Lord, I allowed the world to seep into my heart and judged a man guilty until proven innocent.
I thought about how God must feel. How often have people been afraid to trust Him and look too closely at Him because of wrong perceptions? And how often have their wrong perceptions come from those of us who bear His name but do not walk in His ways of love...like me?
I am thankful for the kind man who did not allow my hesitation and judgment of him to stop him from giving me his gift. I am thankful for a loving God who does not allow my failures and mistakes to stop Him from giving me His gifts of mercy, peace, and love every day. And I am thankful for the greatest gift I will ever receive: eternal life through God's son Jesus.
"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." (John 3:16, NIV)
Merry Christmas! And as Tiny Tim said, "God bless us, everyone!"