This week I went for a walk. Recently moving to a new town, I wanted to explore it on my own two feet. To become familiar with the sights, the people, and really the only two streets in the little town of Bridgewater (seriously, think Stars Hollow except… smaller) was something I hadn’t had the opportunity to do since starting a new job nearby.
I passed 7-Eleven on my left, El Charro’s on my right, a horse and buggy further down the road, a woman walking her dog, and a once auto repair garage turned bakery shop just up the road (from what I can tell, the goods look tasty).
But then I saw the laundromat. I thought, “Jesus, I think you want me to stop there, but I don’t want to.”
He said, “Go in.”
“Only if a woman is in there, Jesus.”
I’m still not sure why that was my stipulation, but in any case, I walked closer and saw through the big glass front a man and woman doing their individual loads of laundry. Dangit. “Jesus! Do I have to go in? What do I even say to her?”
“Tell her I love her.”
Simple as that, right? But all I wanted to do was turn around and walk briskly back home. However, after walking up and down the sidewalk three times and feeling a sharp pain in my eyebrow that made me believe I had to go in, I started to make my way to the door. I fought the urge to run back out and convince myself that the overload of onions in my dinner was doing weird things to my head, but instead turned the knob and took a deep breath.
It wasn’t hard for her to see me, and probably like every other stranger she’s seen at the laundromat in the past, she continued unloading her clean laundry from the washer to her white plastic basket.
I interrupted her with an, “Excuse me.”
In a jumble of some words, I gave her the message.
“Who is this Jesus?” she roughly asked.
Wasn’t expecting that. So in another jumble, I simply said he was God’s Son who loved her and asked if she wanted to hear more.
“I don’t know who you speak of. No, I don’t care to hear,” and continued loading her damp clothes into the dryer.
I was baffled. During my time at Virginia Tech as a student, I participated in several campus outreach opportunities with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship to share the gospel with various students on campus. Sure, we had our rejections, encouraging conversations, and some even responding with a desire to follow Jesus, but to meet someone here who didn’t even know his name or acknowledge that she did? Someone who wanted nothing to do with the God who loved her? Who wasn’t even curious enough for a short explanation?
Bidding her a “good evening” (as I had no idea what else to do), I walked out the same door I had walked in just seconds earlier expecting her to receive Jesus’ message with great joy. Instead, my heart felt like this woman’s heap of wet laundry, soggy with tears and limp from sadness.
“Jesus, what just happened?”
In this one encounter, I felt the smallest bit of what Jesus experienced almost daily in his life on earth: rejection of his love. I fully expected that out of my obedience I would have an encounter beyond belief with this woman right away. I hoped for a response that would lead her to trusting this mysterious person who sent a stranger to tell her that he loved her.
Is it wrong to expect immediate acceptance of the gospel? By no means! Will we see our testimony of God’s love rejected as followers of His Son? Absolutely. Should be discouraged? Not at all. Our words have no power in changing hearts, but obedience to the promptings of the Holy Spirit living in us when we decide to follow Jesus will not fail to change our hearts. Your heart is as valuable to the Lord as the people he prompts you to love. In loving others out of obedience, a gateway is made into their hearts that the Holy Spirit has access to entering.
I don’t think I’ll ever see a laundromat the same way again.