“…you shall be carried upon her hip, and fondled upon her knees.

As one whom his mother comforts,

so I will comfort you;

you shall be comforted in Jerusalem”.

Isaiah 60: 12-13

I found myself waiting at check out line 12 one late summer evening at the local Walmart.

Late evenings at Walmart can be an education, a real finger on the pulse of humanity living out its glorious foibles all in one place. If nothing else, the people-watching is superb and supremely entertaining. But I was too tired to be entertained on this particular evening. I stood in my line with all the other poor souls inwardly kicking themselves for forgetting to buy milk or diapers or worse, coffee – earlier in the day. We were now doomed to take our place in line like the weary, despondent souls waiting to cross the River Styx. Only it was late night Walmart and the ferry driver was a long-suffering, twenty-something cashier dreaming of better days ahead.

One would not expect to find any sort of Divine inspiration in such a scenario as late-night Walmart. But that would be to underestimate the creative ways God finds to crash into our distracted little brains. I heard Him most distinctly two aisles down in line 10 calling “Take note”. It would have been difficult not to take note, for there on the floor was a little boy in full-on tantrum mode.



Writhing on the floor.

Completely done with the day.

Long ago I made a solemn promise to never, ever judge a mom with a screaming child in a public place.  I have had too many “episodes” of my own, including a whole dozen eggs being dropped one by one from the pudgy little hand of my two-year-old as we waited in the checkout line at the grocery store.  Yes, I have skulked out of many a grocery store in my time as a mom, so a tantrum in aisle 10 was no real shock to me.

Chalk it up to fatigue or simply a need to pass the time, but as I watched this little boy on the floor, I had a delicious little vision pass through my head. Wouldn’t it be so releasing if adults could just hit the floor and have a screaming fit complete with flailing whenever things got to be too much?  At the post office when you have pulled number 45 out of the machine and you discover they are only on customer 10. When you are late and the car won’t start.  When you can’t get the gas pump to come on. When you have to spend your WHOLE lunch hour at the DMV. When the meeting at work drones on and on and it is time to call it a day. Just falling to the floor kicking, screaming, wailing, with some good old gnashing of teeth. All of it. Full-on tantrum. It made me laugh to myself just imagining it. I laughed, of course,  because I knew it would never happen, even in a late-night Walmart. And it is just there, in that ‘never’, that God asked me to pause.

Never? Really?

For, in truth, aren’t we all rather like that on the inside when it comes down to it? All the petty thoughts whining away, the foot-stamping refusals to forgive others for stepping on our vanity or pride, grudges gnashing, the physical crosses of sickness, old age, or chronic pain pushed away petulantly with a screaming “Not fair!”, Rolling about in the muck of indecision and declaring that it is just too hard to overcome that one particular sin and why must I anyway? Hiding the lies behind our backs, holding our precious little envies close to our chests, and lashing out at any suggestion that we just let them go.

Inner tantrums, all. Full on. Such is what God has to hear from us on any given day. Sometimes He has to shock us out of our in-turned little fits – when we just can’t hear anyone but ourselves screaming in a blind sort of way.  This night, however, he had a different message for me.

What came next at the developing saga two lines down was quite beautiful in its tenderness. The mom squatted down to the little boy and only said quite calmly and gently, “Come here, you.” No annoyance, no anger at the scene he was making, no threats, no bribes. She knew he was spent, tired, helpless to pull himself together.

It was the gentleness that stopped him short. That little guy just melted at the sound of her voice.  He got up still crying and ended up all folded into her arms with his little face hidden in her neck.  She picked him up quietly without skipping a beat and continued to put her groceries in bags. He fell asleep in complete surrender.  If I had had a major award medal, I would have pinned it on her lapel.  What a great mom!

This same tender image is what Isaiah is using to talk about our relationship with God.  When we are all out of sorts, when we cannot figure things out, when our control is out of control, when we are tired, and sad, and mystified, when we are having trouble saying yes to Him with alacrity; we are that crying, tired, spent, flailing child.  And God, through the mouth of Isaiah, promises us that He will comfort us just like a mother comforts her child. But we must come.

Sometimes He will have to quietly remind us, “When you come to appear before me…bring no more vain offerings” (Isaiah 1)  We all know those “vain offerings”.  Our sins make us small, and we become acutely aware that we have offered most of our incense to idols and have kept next to nothing for the living God.  When we get to this point, God has to cry “No more of this, now!” like a firm parent must.

 This is because He loves us and sees how much we need a strong voice in the cacophony we have created in our hearts by sin. He gets our perhaps stunned attention. We are suddenly ashamed, sad, confused, and sick of being who we are.

But then, oh but then, He adds,”Come now, let us reason together” as if to gently say, “Oh, you. Come here.”  It makes me cry every time I read it. He stoops down at eye level to our souls with those words and whispers, “Confess. Give me the real offering. Your real self in all its pitiful state.  Your need for me. Let go of it all. Confess. Come now…”

It is then we hide our face in His neck and consent, our souls surrendered unto peace. Comforted in Jerusalem, His Church, with a grace beyond all telling.

It is then we hide our face in His neck and consent, our souls surrendered unto peace. Comforted in Jerusalem, His Church, with a grace beyond all telling.

This is the image I always have now as I wait in line at the Confessional. Rising off the ground to the ‘come’ of my Father and hiding my face in the tenderness of His mercy, “as one whom his mother comforts”.

God speaks everywhere. Even at the late-night Walmart when you have forgotten the coffee. Let us listen for His voice. We may hear wonders of beauty even in aisle 10.

Praise Him.


Photo by Hanson Lu on Unsplash

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