I’m in London for the summer, completing a six-week internship before I graduate from college this fall. One of the main things I’ve been focusing on here in England is practicing how to hear from God.
I’m a fantastic talker, but listening? Not so much. Being alone in a city where I don’t know people has helped shut me up, so every single day I’ve asked God to speak to me. Most days, He has, and it’s been amazing.
Yesterday, I stepped off the underground tube with my earbuds firmly placed in my ears. I was listening to a podcast about the injustice surrounding eating and drinking and how often we take food and water for granted when there are millions of people around the world who rarely get to eat.
I nodded my head in agreement as I listened, thinking of the kids I’d seen in Rwanda and Uganda, their malnourished bellies rotund and aching. As I passed by the grocery store, completely wrapped up in my podcast, I saw a woman. She was older, maybe in her mid-sixties, sitting on the edge of the road. She had a cardboard sign in front of her, and scrawled in black letters it read, I’m hungry.
I continued walking but abruptly stopped when it hit me — God was giving me an opportunity to feed someone who was hungry, someone who was sitting right in front of me. I didn’t have to go to Africa to hear from God. I could hear from Him right in that moment, as if He was kindly saying to me, “Give her something to eat.”
It felt simple enough. Even with my unpaid internship, I knew I could afford to buy her a sandwich. I went up to the woman and asked, “Can I get you a sandwich?”
She looked up at me. Her skin was dirty, and she said something in another language. She didn’t speak English.
“A sandwich?” I asked again. “Or a salad? Or some fruit?” I gestured to the grocery store we stood in front of. “I can run inside and get you something to eat.”
She reached her hand out to me, so I took it and pulled her up. Her smile was warm. She followed me into the grocery store and stopped in front of the dairy section. She pulled out a brick of cheese and looked at me as if asking for permission.
“Of course!” I said. “Take whatever you need.”
She picked some more groceries: water, different types of deli meat, a comb, some headache medication.
I could feel people watching us as we stood in line to pay. She kept kissing my hand, saying thank you. She seemed to be telling me about her children, but I couldn’t understand all of what she was trying to say. I turned to meet people’s eyes, but they quickly looked away.
I took her hand in mine, and we walked to the self-checkout. As we rang the items through, I watched the total tally up. Can I afford this? I wondered. I thought I’d be buying her a five-dollar sandwich, not forty dollars worth of groceries. I immediately felt guilty for having that thought.
How often did I ask God to speak to me, only to ignore Him when the time came? It could feel too hard, too sacrificial, too worrisome in case God might ask too much. I wanted Him to speak to me, but when He did, did I really want to listen? Or did I only want to remain in the areas where I felt most comfortable?
We paid and walked back outside to where her sign was still laying.
“Thank you!” she cried again. I squeezed her hand before I left her, and as I walked home, I shook my head at my own selfishness.
I’m too caught up in my own pride, I told Jesus as I walked, I didn’t even consider what it might be like to walk a day in her shoes. I only cared about how it affected me.
I had entered the store with the woman thinking I was so great for buying her a sandwich, but I left thanking God for giving me the opportunity to tangibly love someone that day. He is teaching me how to listen, and I am learning that I don’t need to wait and see God in Africa, or in three months, or in ten years. I can see Him right now, right where I’m at.