Ever since our children have grown up and moved out of the house, I have made it a habit to assist my wife as she shops for groceries. When we enter the store, she gives me the significant task of finding a product like toothpicks. Toothpicks are in the grocery store witness protection program, and it takes me at least 30 minutes to find a store clerk who has a clue as to where they are hidden.
If I am not running errands for my wife, she instructs me to keep my hands glued to the shopping cart handle and to avoid touching anything else in the store. Mostly, I go along to help her carry the bags out to the car and into the house. The other day, I came out to the parking lot and headed toward the car. As I walked around, something didn’t seem right. I knew I had parked in a certain area, but I couldn’t find our car. There is nothing more pathetic than an elderly man pushing a shopping cart around in circles. Yet, there I was, in the middle of the parking lot with no car in sight.
My first thought was to call the police and report a stolen vehicle. But before I did that, I decided to try one more thing. Our car has one of those key fobs that allow you to push a button to honk the horn. I pulled out the fob and began walking around again, pushing the tiny button and expecting to hear a horn honk.
Now, if you think an elderly man pushing a shopping cart in circles is pathetic, wait till you see one walking around with a fob in his hand, holding it at eye level and waving it back and forth while repeatedly pushing a button. I went from one side of the parking lot to the other, hoping to hear my car horn, but nothing happened. By this time, our frozen items were semi-frozen, and we desperately needed to get home.
Suddenly, my wife stopped and looked at me. “Wait a minute. We didn’t come in my car; we came in yours!”
We never take my old car to go grocery shopping, but for some reason, that’s what we had done that day. I pulled out the key fob for my car, pressed the horn button and in the distance heard a faint honk. I have never been so excited, and I pushed the button faster and faster, running toward the honking sound. I felt foolish and somewhat embarrassed that I had forgotten which car I had driven to the store. I am glad none of you has gone through the embarrassment of losing your car in a parking lot.
A month later, I went back to the same grocery store. As I pulled into a parking space, I saw a man nearby walking around in circles. He passed in front of me going one direction and then came back walking the opposite direction. But this time, he had his key fob out and was pushing the button.
Since I knew what was going on, I walked over to him and asked, “Sir, are you having a problem?”
“Yes,” he replied. “I don’t know what happened to my car; I can’t find it.” I could see the desperation in his eyes.
“Sir, by chance could you have come in a different car than you usually drive? Maybe you are driving your wife’s car instead of yours?” I asked.
I could see the lights come on inside, and he started laughing. “You know what? You’re right. I was looking for my car when I happen to be in my wife’s today.” With a turn of his head, he spotted his wife’s car. “Thank you so much” he said. “But how did you know I was looking for the wrong car?”
I wanted to say “Ahhh, just a lucky guess on my part,” but I confessed that I, too, had been a parking lot wanderer not so long ago. He found solace in the fact that he wasn’t the only one.
I love the story of Jesus feeding the 5,000. He took five loaves of bread and two fishes and fed the multitude. But do you know what happened in the end? “When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, ‘Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted’” (John 6:12).
Someone once told me that, just as in this story, God doesn’t waste anything. He can use every sickness, disappointment, grouchy boss, rebellious child, financial setback or other problem to help another person. Pray that your trial will become a door of hope for someone else—even when it involves wandering in a parking lot.