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I looked up at the clock on the wall. Thirty minutes left till closing. It had been a long day and I was ready to put the closed sign in the window of the bookstore and go home. Just as I took out the bank deposit slip to write in the date and record the checks, a white Cadillac pulled up in front and parked at the curb. A sophisticated woman who could've stepped off of a fashion runway entered the store. She approached the counter carrying a Gucci bag. I recognized her perfume -- expensive.
"Do you have a Bible?" she said.
"We have lots of those." I pointed to the shelves behind me. "What type are you interested in?" I named the Bible translations we carried along with their distinct styles.
"I just need a Bible," she said, "any kind."
With as pleasant an attitude as I could muster in my hurry to leave for the day, I showed her several Bibles and their various features. I waited while she compared Scriptures in the different versions. Why did people who didn't know what they want always wait until the last minute to shop? Diamond rings adorned her fingers and clicked against the countertop as she looked over her options.
Relieved when she finally chose one, I punched the price into the register. "That'll be thirty-five dollars and sixty-nine cents."
Her shoulders dropped and a desperate look came over her. "Oh, I didn't realize it would be so much. I only have thirteen dollars." She shoved the crumpled bills onto the counter, and then dug through her purse which appeared to be void of any more cash. "Just a minute," she said as she rummaged deeper. "I've found some more, and she counted out five dollars in quarters. That makes eighteen."
"I can hold the Bible for up to two weeks if you want," I told her.
"No..., no..., I need a Bible today. Wait a minute; I have some other money in my car."
I watched as she walked to her expensive Cadillac. I felt the Lord nudge my heart, then whisper, "You have an opportunity to give someone my Word." Confident in my judgment as I took inventory of the situation, I resisted the Lord. In His wisdom, He continued to press me. When the woman returned she clutched a plain white envelope. She bit her lower lip as she pulled out the two twenties it contained. "This is my grocery money."
Making the Right Choice
Weighed down by the struggle raging in my mind, I said, "It's okay, I'll just take your eighteen dollars." I figured I could make up the difference, even though I knew the Lord wanted me to pay the entire amount. I hesitated as I picked up her money. Aware the Lord was watching, I knew what He wanted me to do.
My face displayed a polite smile while I defended my position. "But Lord, we're struggling ourselves to get by. Our insurance is due. Look at the car she's driving. Do you see her clothes? They're right off the rack at Nordstrom's, a store I can't afford to shop at." I laid it straight out, telling the Lord all the reasons I didn't think this woman needed me to pay for her Bible.
When I finished my internal tirade, the quiet words of the Lord pierced my heart. "Freely you have received, freely give." With my argument deflated, I surrendered. "Yes, Lord."
"Don't worry," I said, pushing her money back across the counter and depositing it in front of her. "I'll take care of the full amount."
The concern over spending her grocery money and other money it was evident she didn't have to spend, disappeared from her face. "Are you sure?"
"Yeah, no problem," I said. "Just enjoy God's Word."
Seeing the Whole Picture
She scraped the money back into her purse, picked up her new Bible and left. I watched as she got into her sleek white Cadillac and drove off. She had not shopped in the store before, so I never expected to see her again.
Two weeks later she reappeared. "I came here a couple of weeks ago and you gave me a Bible," she said. "I wanted to thank you. You have no idea how much your generosity meant to me. I needed answers and the comfort I knew a Bible would provide." She proceeded to tell me that her husband was ill and had lost his job. They also had an adult child who had a problem with addiction, and their finances had dwindled trying to get help.
I knew the grief of watching a child in trouble, and offered to pray for her family. I was humbled as she thanked me again for my kindness. I was also grateful that she didn't know the struggle that took place in my heart that day. Tears streamed down my cheeks as I watched her drive away in her white Cadillac.
© 2010 Kathleen Kohler