The Common Good
March-April 1997

Divine Intervention

by Ed Spivey Jr. | March-April 1997

I saw God the other day at the supermarket.

I saw God the other day at the supermarket. I was in a hurry, just needed a couple of things, and, to be honest, I wasn’t all that happy to discover that it was God standing in front of me in the express lane. He had 11 items, an out-of-town check, and a question.

Now I want to say right off that I have enormous respect for God. As you know, God made the heavens and the Earth in less than a week. (God has incredible time management skills.) And God has already proven a deep love for humankind-type-persons by sending His only son to spend time with us. (I’ve always wondered about that "only son" thing. Does that imply God also had several daughters? If so, how come they didn’t volunteer?)

If I had been God back then I probably wouldn’t have sent my son. I would have sent my annoying cousin Bobby instead. When I was a kid Ialways had to sleep in his room when we visited and every night at about 3 in the morning Bobby would shake me awake, yelling, "Hey Ed! Are you awake?"

"Yes," Iwould groggily answer.

"Well, you shouldn’t be. For gosh sakes, it’s 3 o’clock in the morning! Hah hah hah!"

So anyway, I would have made Bobby pay for our sins.

But at the grocery store God was clearly violating one of the two most important rules of the express lane: 10 items means 10 items. The other rule is never try to find an article in the National Enquirer while you’re in the express lane. The Enquirer doesn’t have a table of contents, and you can absolutely never locate the Burt Reynolds story before the clerk interrupts you with the inevitable question about plastic or paper (to which I feel Imust respond with a stern admonishment against plastic bags and what it does to the whales who eat them because they look like jellyfish—an understandable mistake that I personally have made many times).

The reason Imake that little speech is because Itry to make a difference in this world, and I want to reach out in a positive way to everyone I touch, particularly grocery store clerks, who usually show their appreciation by removing the cash drawers and quickly walking away, presumably to think in greater depth about the things I’ve just said.

But I hesitated to mention supermarket etiquette to God, because He probably had a lot on his mind, what with all the troubles in the world, not the least of which is the fact that some Japanese guy named Fujimori has apparently taken over Peru. When did this happen? Was Iout sick? How can a guy who probably doesn’t even speak Spanish get to be leader of a South American country? Did he get separated from his tour group and accidentally sit down on the wrong chair in the Presidential Palace? Has his car been parked at the Tokyo airport for the last 10 years? (Discuss.)

But God did have one too many items and that’s real annoying. So I gently tapped Him on the shoulder and said, in my most worshipful and gender inclusive voice, "Excuse me, Sir, or, uh, M’am. But you have too many items for this lane."

Then God turned around and looked at me with those piercing eyes and said in a deep Charlton Heston-like voice, "Do I know you?"

I took this as a bad sign.

I figured a God whose "eye is on the sparrow" should at least remember the name of somebody who works for a religious magazine, since we’re sort of in the same business. (When I was a kid the preacher promised my name would be in the Lamb’s Book of Life, but apparently God didn’t have it with him at that moment—probably too bulky—so he couldn’t look it up.)

God did have a beeper, however, which went off just as I was about to remind him that I was the same guy who got second place in the Bible drill in 1962 after I prayed and prayed for Him to help me win. (Only, some other kid won because he snuck his thumb over the edge of the Bible and got a head start. That’s so wrong.)

Out of nowhere a cellular phone appeared in God’s hand and he started speaking rapidly into the receiver while quickly emptying his cart onto the conveyer belt. Why he needed six cans of cat food and five boxes of Little Debbie snack cakes I couldn’t tell you, but when I started to inquire He whirled back around to me, shoved the phone back in his pocket and said, "Now what was it you were saying?"

I immediately regretted the situation. I was bothering God, and I began to feel embarrassed and deeply ashamed (coincidentally, the same feelings that Jim Rice should have had last week when he came to a staff meeting with just one donut and then ate it in front of us. All by himself. It was Bavarian cream, with a light sprinkling of brown sugar on the top...it must have been delicious.)

I was speechless. On the other hand, I thought, I really should ask God something, since I probably wouldn’t see Him again for a long time. Instead of wasting this encounter on stupid comments about express lanes I should probe the Holy One’s limitless mind with the deeper questions. But God was in a hurry to leave with his groceries (in a plastic bag), and I knew I should ask something, something important. Why is there greed? What can Americans do to heal the wounds of prejudice? Why are there brussels sprouts? No really, why?

I was running out of time and God was disappearing into the parking lot, so I just blurted out: "Excuse me! Uh...does a full house beat four-of-a-kind? Or is it the other way around?"

God didn’t answer. He just stepped into a waiting minivan (green, with silver trim) and sped away. He never looked back.

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