Encounter Series - The Friend
A fictional account of actual events.
Everywhere you go you have an opportunity to be Jesus in someone’s life. You just have to ask God to show you the opportunity and to give you the courage and wisdom to act on it.
Chapter 2 - The Friend
Every single morning on my way to work I stopped at Fill-er Up, my favorite oversized gas station, slash, mini-restaurant. 4 out of 5 days I got a large cup of coffee to which I added 2 sugars and a ton of vanilla creamer, on the other day I added a donut. Sure I could have made my own cup of joe at home. I mean, I have about a dozen fancy travel mugs but I just enjoyed the stop at Fill-er Up. It was a part of my morning routine that I just couldn’t give up even if it did cost me an extra $10 a week. (Yes I did the math.) I don’t know exactly what it was about that simple familiar habit that I enjoyed so much. The brightly colored walls and large pictures of shiny fruit that hung above the cash register made the place feel energized and happy, the hustle that everyone seemed to share in the morning hour gave me a sense of comradery in the rat race and of course Amy, my usual cashier who greeted everyone with a smile and an upbeat, pleasant “hello” in the morning.
Amy was probably my favorite part of coming in to Fill-er Up. I had been coming in to that same morning stop for almost two years. After that amount of time she was a fixture, a comfort in my day that I came to care about more than I realized. Amy had short brown hair with a purple streak in the front. She had a silver ball piercing in her nose and while her work shirt was always clean I am pretty sure she ordered them one size smaller than she really was. She was young and was taking college classes online and besides this job she was worked as a bartender for a local restaurant. Amy lived with a roommate, her friend from high school. She didn’t know her dad and she didn’t get along with her mom. She was doing everything she could to make it on her own.
How did I know all this, you may be wondering? Well, as I said I had been coming in there for nearly two years. Amy always worked the morning shift. After a few stops you start to make chit chat. Basic stuff, the weather, the change in seasons and the excitement for upcoming holidays or local events. She would talk about her other job and late nights and of course her boyfriend Mitch. I found myself starting to ask her questions. The one morning I asked her, “Amy, what are you doing here? You are here everyday and you work at the restaurant every night. You are an awful hard worker at such a young age.” She told me about her parents and about her college courses. Little by little I learned a more and more about Amy’s life. It was as if she looked forward to telling me about her accomplishments and challenges each day. And I always made sure to be supportive, offing cliche words of wisdom when things were rough and accolades for a job well done when things were good.
I saw the ring the day it first appeared on her finger. Her high school boyfriend, Mitch, had proposed the evening before. I congratulated her and she shared the proposal story and the plans to marry next fall. I also noticed the day the ring was missing from her finger and her usual happy demeanor was as absent as the ring. Now most people wouldn’t have said anything about it, afraid of being rude or nosy or bringing up a bad memory. But I couldn’t help it. I thought it more rude not to ask.
“Amy?” I questioned, tilting my head to one side and pointing to her left hand. She just shook her head and closed her eyes. “That’s all done now.” She answered. Her tone was sad and her usually bright eyes were as dull as I had ever seen.
I didn’t really know what to say. I hated being cliche, so reciting, “Things will get better” or “the right one will come along” was definitely out. “God has a plan for you, Amy. Just ask him what it is. You’ll see it soon enough.” The words popped out of my mouth without thinking. Her eyes widened and she just stared at me for a moment. Then she smiled slightly. She took my cash, $2.12 the exact change I had counted out before heading in, (today was a donut day), and handed me my receipt. “I’ll see you tomorrow.”
As I headed out the door I realized that was the first time I ever said anything “Christian” to Amy. I mean I am pretty sure she knew I was a Christian. After all I wore a cross necklace everyday and last year at Christmas I remember mentioning Jesus being the reason for the season. There may have been something else here or there but nothing directly to her about Jesus or God or anything. I chided myself for not sharing my light and made up my mind to be better at it. That day, at least a hundred times, I thought of Amy and what she was going through. Each time I asked God to be with her and to show her that He was there for her and to lead her on the path to her future. I didn’t have any idea what her future held, but I did know that God had a plan and that He was a part of it. God’s hope and plan for everyone is that they will have a relationship with Him. And maybe she did know HIm. I didn’t know. Either way, I knew she needed God’s love to comfort her in this difficult time.
The next day I was anxious to get to the Fill-er Up, to see Amy. Ask her how was she doing? Try to start more of a conversation with her. I was worried about her. It was strange, really. I mean the truth was I hardly knew her at all, but in many ways she was more of a fixture in life than my closest friends. Amy knew all about my work. She had asked questions. She knew about my boss’s fussiness and my tendency to be late. She knew about the big projects I was working on and she knew when they were done. I started to realize just how much information we really shred in that two minutes or so every morning. But that day, for the very first time since I had been coming in, a boy named Paul greeted me, because Amy didn’t show up for work. Of course I asked about her and Paul let out a long and frustrated sigh as he explained that she had called off. His tone annoyed me and I felt the need to defend her. “Well, that is amazing. I have been coming here for two years and this is the first time I ever missed her. She really is a dedicated worker. I hope she feels better soon.” “Me too.” Paul guffed. “No one knows how to handle the morning rush without her.” It was then I noticed the mess at the usually clean coffee bar. 3 pots were empty, not to mention the limited supply of sugar packets and cups.
It was three days before I seen Amy again. Each day I had grown a little more concerned and prayed a lot harder. I was so relieved on that Friday morning when she finally surfaced. I didn’t even go get my coffee first. At this point I was more worried about her than my morning fix. “Amy! I am so glad you are back. How are you feeling?” As the words fell out of my mouth I knew they were the wrong ones. Amy wasn’t sick with the stomach flu, she was battling a broken heart and the signs were all over her face. She brightened up a bit as I came over to talk with her. The store was nearly empty so we had a minute to catch up.
“I am!” She assured me. “It’s been a rough week. I am glad I got to see you too. Unfortunately, I lost my other job so things have been extra, well, - it is just piling on, you know?”
“Oh, Amy, I am so sorry to hear that. You have to know there is a plan and more often than not it is not the plan we had for ourselves. But God’s plan works out better than we hoped. I know it is going to get bright for you soon. I just know it.” Again, these words had rolled off of my tongue before I had processed them.
She tilted her head to the side and just smiled at me. “You know, you said something like that to me before. And I wouldn’t have thought about it, you know - God. I mean I went to church some as a kid but what you said before. It got me thinking... well, maybe there is something out there that, well, you know, cares about me?” It was more of a question than a statement.
“Definitely.” I answered. I wanted to add more, say more, but a customer came up ready to pay and I was already running late. Two more people got in line and I motioned to the coffee bar. “At least you are here to get this place running right. It is not the same without you.” I walked off to make my usual cup and found my place in line.
Things were back to normal. Fill-er Up was not a wreck and Amy was doing better and maybe thinking about God. It was going to be a good day. Then a whisper spread across my heart, that familiar comfort, the voice that could only be God. “It is time to be more. She needs more.” I didn’t know what it meant for a moment, but when I glanced at her again, I saw her in tears, sad, alone, tormented. I blinked twice and then it was back to normal, smiling and handing change to a customer. Then the image of her in tears returned. Then back to normal. I rubbed my eyes. And then realized God was showing me what she really looked like. The reality inside she was fighting to hide. I knew I needed to do something.
“She needs to see me.” God whispered. “Really see me.” “I know! That is what I have been praying for. Please reach her Lord! Please.” I prayed silently.
“She needs to see me in you.” He instructed. And I paused.
“Me? What can I do?” “Be her friend. She needs to see me in you.” Again the familiar voice of God whispered across my heart and I knew what I needed to do.
Knowing, however, didn’t stop the doubt from creeping in. I had been talking to this person for two years and I had never seen her outside of the Filler-Up. We had no common circles, we weren’t the same age bracket - nothing in common. Again the image of her in tears flashed before me. And my heart was filled with courage.
As I approached the counter again to pay for my coffee, I asked her, “Amy, would you like to meet up this evening after I get off work? If you are available. I would like to take you to dinner.” - Oh no! As the words came out I started analyzing what I just said. I hoped she didn’t think it was strange or sound like I was asking her on a date. Uhg! I totally should have worded that differently…. Oh the things that race through your head when you are following God’s instructions.
Amy hesitated. And I wanted to follow up, say something that let her know I was just trying to be her friend. I felt uncomfortable but I was fighting not to let it show. I was trying to figure out what to say next when she responded.
“That would be really nice actually. Where do you want to meet?” A sigh of relief left my lips, “Dessie’s Dinner on 5th. 6:00. I get off around 5:00 so that will be perfect. Sound good?”
“Sounds great, thanks! I will see you then.” She smiled and waved as I walked out the door sliding my sunglasses in place. This time when I looked back at Amy, I didn’t see a girl fighting to hide her tears, I only saw the smile of the girl who had seen a small glimpse of Jesus.
To be continued….