The mall parking lot was full, or close to it. Although I’m not sure why we expected anything less. It was a Saturday afternoon or, what I like to call "prime time" in the world of shopping.
Row upon row of parking spots were full. A sea of cars surrounded us as we slowly drove up and down each aisle, keeping our eyes peeled for a spot close to the door.
I suppose we could have parked out further and walked. But living in Florida, where afternoon thunderstorms weren’t merely predicted, but pretty much expected by residents, we wanted close access.
A few minutes passed. Another row covered. Nothing.
"OK, girls, pray!" my mom instructed my three sisters and me.
So, the praying began.
Before long, our eyes beheld a beautiful sight. Headlights directly ahead of us. Two spots from the door. With no other cars bidding for it, the spot was ours.
Now I know that for some, this doesn’t seem like a big deal, especially for those who are statistically minded. Because the fact is, the longer one drives around a parking lot, the greater the chance of finding a good spot. It’s purely a matter of odds that’s easily predicted by mathematical figures.
But for us, it was a big deal. It was more than odds. It was answered prayer.
Growing up, it wasn’t unusual for my mom to encourage my sisters and me to pray for parking spots. It was unusual for her not to. I was raised with the firm belief that God isn’t merely concerned with the big details in life, but all of the details of life.
Yes, He cares about where I move or what job I may take. But His concern doesn’t stop there. God, who takes care of both the sparrows and the lilies, also cares about a good parking spot, a safe trip, and finding needed items on clearance, such as a winter coat or a new pair of shoes for a quickly growing toddler. He’s the same today as we see Him in the Gospels.
I’m currently reading through the Book of Luke. With each chapter, I find myself marveling at how Jesus stopped to meet the needs of people. Look at the story of the widow in Luke 7.
We’re told that Jesus was visiting the town of Nain. As He and His entourage approached the gate, they met a funeral procession:
As He approached the town gate, a dead person was being carried out — the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the town was with her. When the Lord saw her, His heart went out to her and He said, "Don’t cry." Then He went up and touched the bier they were carrying him on, and the bearers stood still. He said, "Young man, I say to you, get up!" The dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him back to his mother. (Luke 7:11–15)
What I love about this passage is Jesus’ care for the widow. While this woman was of course weeping over the death of her only son, I can’t help but think she was also weeping for herself.
While I’m not well-schooled in the social position of widows during biblical times, I know enough to assume that this woman’s son was her livelihood. He provided financially for her. Without him, there would literally be no bread on the table. Perhaps she’d even lose the house she was living in and be forced to beg. Or, if she was lucky, maybe a distant relative would take her in.
She had to be thinking, "Now that my son is dead, who will care for my needs? How am I going to survive day-to-day life?" No doubt she felt alone with a desolate future before her.
Jesus knew her fears. He didn’t merely see grief in her lament. And He didn’t tell her to toughen up and make the best of her situation. Seeing that she was in need of earthly protection and provision, He stopped. He took the time to ease her burden. In this case, it meant bringing her only son back to life.
I wonder what the widow felt when Jesus gave her son back to her. Astonishment? Joy? Relief? I’d guess all of these and more, including gratitude. Thankfulness that Jesus took the time to stop and get involved, to care about her needs right down to how she’d put food on the table.
Just as Jesus cared about the widow’s needs, He cares about my needs. He takes the time to stop and concern Himself with my day-to-day living. Not because of anything I’ve done, but because of His great mercy, love, and goodness.
And what I’ve come to discover is that it’s easier to live each moment praising God if we truly believe He does care about every aspect of our lives. If we’re confident that God is present and active in our day-to-day living and that events aren’t simply matters of chance, but rather, that He’s in those events, seeing fit to bless us and watch out for us.
I love what singer and songwriter David Crowder writes in his book Praise Habit: Finding God in Sunsets and Sushi. He says:
Every second is an opportunity for praise. There is choosing to be made. A choosing at each moment…. Finding God moment by moment, in the sacred and the mundane, in the valley and on the hill, in triumph and tragedy, and living praise erupting because of it.
It’s my desire to continue to find the goodness of God in the moment-to-moment. To live my life with the awareness that the Jesus I read about in the Gospels is still the same Jesus I serve today — the same Jesus who took the time to stop and care about a widow’s fears. The Jesus who is active, involved, and concerned. The Jesus who doesn’t dismiss matters that others may deem trivial.