"...I need a silent night,
a holy night
To hear an angel voice
through the chaos and the noise
I need a midnight clear
a little peace right here
To end this crazy day
with a Silent Night..."
- Amy Grant
Last night Jeff and I "hit the mall." It is not something I do well. It is not something I do at all. I am not proud of my general aversion to all things "mall." So last night I decided to find God in the mall.
I started with this Amy Grant song, "I Need a Silent Night," and went looking for a manger. I went in, figuratively, on my knees. I entered that same Christmas musak-saturated world, but this time without a clock ticking in my head, counting down the moments until I could bolt from the glittery box filled with "shoppers and their treasures," and escape into a spiritual place of stillness and peace.
And you know what...it was there. It started with our posture. I wasn't clutching my list, and Jeff's arm, as though it was my weapon of defense from slick advertising and pushy salespersons, and he was my protector.
Yes, I had my list in my pocket, and my husband by my side, but this time I used my list as a starting point on a treasure hunt...not for things, but for kindness. And I encouraged Jeff to go off to the food court and grab a quick dinner while I found what we needed...since he hadn't had dinner yet.
As I became one with the stream of life flowing from store to store, I started to look for God. And it didn't take long. I immediately caught sight of a mom on her knees comforting a child, a teenager sharing her hot pretzel with a little brother, a salesperson chasing down the walkway after a customer who'd left her credit card behind following a purchase.
I had no idea where to go...which shop or kiosk...to find any of the items on my very short list, but I knew that I could find God...anywhere. And so I knew, that no matter what, it would be a successful trip because I would find what I was really looking for...the coincidence of divinity in humanity. As I quietly strolled past one shop after another, I noticed a young sales associate refolding sweaters and jeans on a table near the front of her store. She was peaceful. Her face was almost beatific. I could hear her humming, "Do you see what I see?" I was drawn into her space.
She asked me if she could help me. I looked around and discovered that I was actually in a store for young teens. I pulled out my list, and within ten minutes I had purchased all but two of the items I'd come to the mall for. By the time I found my husband in the food court, I'd seen God in action twenty-two more times. And when I reached him, he'd only finished half of his meal.
I left my coat and my bag (one store, one large bag) and walked to the store nearest the food court. Within five feet of the entrance I found my last two items. I was done.
When I was finished making those purchases...smiling!?!?...and returned to the food court, Jeff was ready to leave.
Our stroll back to the other end of the very long mall was peaceful, blessed, and filled with grace. We saw couples patient with one another...and their children, helpful clerks, kind mall guards, and the divine choreography of thousands of "dancers" moving through narrow spaces without incident.
At the last minute we came upon a kiosk where we made our only last minute, "surprise" purchase...and one that was full of wisdom, economy, and brotherly love. It was a holy hour...well actually, only about 45 minutes.
Once again I learned that I "get" the experience I go looking for...or as the hymn says, I will find the Christ when I let my own "...heart prepare Him room." Even at the mall.
Tonight we will have an hour of stillness during our mid-week church service. But it won't be a respite from the mall...but an extension of the manger we found there.
wishing you each....a silent night, a holy night, a midnight clear...
Kate Robertson, CS