A couple weeks ago, as I stood in line at Costco to purchase my groceries, a young mom struggled with her three children in line. She wore a baby in a pouch, had an older baby in the top seat of the cart, and was trying to calm an angry preschooler who sat in a friend’s cart on the other side of her. Her friend was another young mom with her own baby, and they were both trying to buy their items while keeping all the kids under control.
I had seen this young mom earlier in the store, begging the older baby to stay in her top seat in the cart. The baby was attempting to stand up in the top front seat of the cart over and over again. The young mother would sit the baby down and run to get something, and dart back to the baby who kept wriggling herself out of the unfastened seat while trying to stand.
Honestly, it was scary! I was so concerned the baby would fall out and hit her head on the concrete. It was an accident waiting to happen, as the mother kept turning her back, and returning quickly to the cart, begging the baby to sit back down again.
I didn’t understand why the mother didn’t just strap the baby into the cart, or just push her a few feet over to the next aisle. But I did know that the young mother was incredibly stressed out, and I surely could understood that! Perhaps the cart was difficult to push with the smaller baby sleeping in a pouch attached to Mommy’s belly. Maybe something was wrong with the strap. Maybe it was painful to push the heavy cart. I don’t really know why safety wasn’t being practiced or put into place. I thought maybe I could stand nearby to catch the baby in case she fell. So that’s what I did.
As the mom returned, I was coaxing her baby to sit down. I gently let the mom know that I was standing there so the baby wouldn’t fall. But it was obvious. Her baby was wriggling upward in the cart again. She asked the baby to sit down again, and thanked me for being there. I said bye-bye to her little one, and we both continued to shop. Now, a half hour later, we were in parallel checkout lanes, and the pattern was being repeated.
In my head were visions of toddlers falling out of grocery carts onto the hard concrete floor. I’d read stories about children having concussions, and even dying, because they had stood up and fallen from grocery carts. I thought about the brazen attempts of kidnapping that had been caught on video camera, where children had been grabbed, while distracted parents had left them unattended, beyond their reach. Why would any mother take that chance?
But I saw the stressed out face of a young mother who had way too many balls in play. I’ve been there too; multitasking, forgetting something important because of my long list of priority to-do items. This young mother definitely had her hands full, even with her friend there to help her. She also clearly did not want anything to happen to her sweet baby. Taking a deep breath, I walked over to her cart, once again. Meanwhile, the nice man in the checkout lane at Costco, unloaded my own groceries for me. He was aware of the dilemma, as well as many other customers. As the mother returned to her cart in line, I once again told her I’d be glad to stand near her baby until she could come back to the cart. I looked at the baby and told her she was a wiggle worm. The baby’s eyes twinkled, and her mommy laughed.
Costco is a place for packing up your food, keeping your kids happy, and getting out the door. This young mother didn’t need criticism. She needed some support, and she needed it NOW. Judging her parenting skills wasn’t going to help, but showing her Christ’s love, could! God was leading me to be the hands and feet of Jesus for a young mom in a short moment of desperation. Isn’t that exactly what God does for us?
When we are left without food or shelter, caught up in our messy storms of life because of mistakes we’ve made, there’s a silver lining. Instead of scolding us, God sends Jesus to meet our needs…right where we are standing. Instead of condemning and criticizing us for all the things we’ve done wrong, Jesus comes alongside us with compassion, mercy, and grace. He offers us protection, even when we aren’t paying attention. Then, in God’s timing, The Holy Spirit convicts our hearts, giving us wisdom and discernment for us to use in the future.
The Holy Spirit warmed my heart, as I got a chance to chat with the two young moms that were together, and ask questions about their cute kids and how old they were. They walked out with happy smiles, laughing together, with full control over their very energetic babies! I know God can be trusted to care for that young mother and her child in a way I never could…just as He cares for my own children when I make mistakes.
Criticism and judgment fall on deaf ears, are self-elevating and non-productive. It’s like having someone offer you a meal or clothing or a prayer, with the expectation that you first promise to get a job, stop every bad habit, admit all your wrongdoing, and promise to immediately change your life completely around. Love opens up the path so those things can eventually happen in God’s perfect timing. If we are going to help, let’s offer it in love, or we may as well not bother doing it at all.
“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal”
(1 Cor. 13:1 English Standard Version).