Dirty Kroger: A Holy Spirit Story

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Acts 1:8 (NIV)

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

CONSIDER THIS

“The Spirit of Jesus in me greets the Spirit of Jesus in you and brings us together in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, amen.”

Then Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk” (Acts 3:6).

Let’s open where we closed yesterday; with the big “what-if”: What if I have everything Jesus has? 

I want to share a Holy Spirit story. I’m calling it “Dirty Kroger.”

Early this spring I found myself on an average day at Kroger. When it comes to Kroger I had two choices where I used to live in Tennessee—both equidistant from my house. I could go to the boujee Kroger servicing the nearby want-to-be-wealthy subdivision or I could go to the Kroger more commonly known as “Dirty Kroger,” the one that serves the rest of us. I actually prefer “Dirty Kroger” not because I don’t want-to-be-wealthy but because it is much larger and tends to be better stocked. 

On this day I am loading my groceries in my car when I hear a loud commotion. I look around and see police cars and an ambulance arriving on the scene. I stand there with the milk in one hand and the eggs in the other as about six police officers and EMT’s surround a woman who is sitting on a park bench next to the exit of the store. She is yelling loudly. The 9-1-1 crew are confronting her, doing their best to deescalate the situation while having the opposite effect. I notice about ten other people around like me, staring at the unfolding chaos. 

I sense the Spirit’s whisper in my spirit, “Go over there.” “Awww mannn!” I thought to myself, “I don’t want to go over there. What can I do anyway?” 

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

So I started walking in that direction. As I neared I began to notice the terrible trifecta usually accompanying these situations: Poverty, mental illness, intoxication. In other words, intractable, wicked problem. Then I thought to myself, “I am a baptized Christian, a Holy Spirit–filled, grace-gifted, Jesus freak. Further, I am an ordained minister of the church Jesus is building (which is a stretch to claim).” Meanwhile, I’m still walking over, slowing my pace because I have no idea what I am going to do when I get there. 

The letters on wristbands everywhere popped into my mind—W.W.J.D.—”What Would Jesus Do?” The story of Jesus and the Demoniac popped into my memory—you know the time when Jesus got into a boat and rowed across the lake for a meeting with a mentally ill, homeless, also demon-possessed man who lived in a cemetery. Then it hit me. What would Jesus do is the wrong question. That’s the ethical question, the one you might ask when you are doing the autopsy. The apostolic question, the day-after-the-day-of-Pentecost question is not, “What would Jesus do,” it is, “What is Jesus doing?” 

I knew in that moment exactly what Jesus was doing. He was physically walking me from the bleachers into the game. He was physically rowing the boat of my body right into the middle of the intractable, wicked problem which had claimed the life of his precious daughter. I understood the assignment: Walk straight up to her, through the six cops and EMT’s who were offering the only two solutions they had to this woman who was profoundly agitated, afraid, and becoming belligerent: jail or the psych ward. Though she shouted, no intelligible words came from her mouth. Walk straight up to her, sit down beside her, and ask her for her name. Then I tried to reason with the Holy Spirit, “What do I have to offer this woman?” 

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

I had always understood that as being about witnessing to others, or telling them the good news about Jesus—you know, that they were a sinner who needed a savior and if they believed in Jesus and prayed the sinner’s prayer they would go to Heaven when they died. I’m not saying that’s not true. I’m just saying it is not what Jesus meant in Acts 1:8. “You will be my witnesses” doesn’t mean you will witness to people about me. It means you will be me on Earth as I am in Heaven. You will be my fully authorized, empowered, gifted agent, a tabernacle of my presence, even, everywhere you go. The Holy Spirit will walk you right up to the gates of Hell and give you the audacity to shake them with all you’ve got while shouting, “Not today Satan!” 

Question: What do I have to offer this woman? 
Answer: Everything Jesus is and has. 

So, full of the Holy Spirit, I walked right up to the commotion unfolding outside Dirty Kroger, and I walked right past, stopping about ten yards beyond, where I stood next to a brick column and prayed quietly under my breath. After a few minutes of that I walked back to my car and went home. 

Before we go, let me say this. I appreciate those of you who write me when I tell fail stories like this, but I don’t need to be consoled with things like, “Don’t get down on yourself. You tried. You did a loving thing anyway.” Friends of Jesus, I am not down on myself. My job performance and my self-worth and identity got a divorce a long time ago. I am appropriately self-critical. I want to learn to play in the big leagues with Jesus. I’m still in little league. I’ve got plenty of wins. While our faith grows with our wins, we learn the most from our fails. And remember, the only people who aren’t failing are the ones who are still in the bleachers. 

Still day one. 

THE PRAYER

God our Father, who with your son Jesus Messiah, fills us with the Holy Spirit, thank you for the miracle and the mystery of the day of Pentecost. And thank you for today, and that it is only the day after. Jesus, I want to learn to do what you are doing right here and right now. Holy Spirit, be my encourager to take more risks, to love more. I’m sorry I never got her name that day. Give me another shot. Thanks for being such a good, gracious coach. I’ll be ready. Praying in Jesus’ name, amen. 

THE QUESTION

What might have happened if I had fulfilled the assignment—which was to sit down next to her and ask her for her name? What can we learn from this story? 

For the Awakening,
J.D. Walt
Sower-in-Chief
seedbed.com

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Farmer. Poet. Theologian. Jurist. Publisher. Seedbed's Sower-in-Chief.

7 COMMENTS

  1. “So what might happened if I had fulfilled the assignment “ to encounter this woman with the grace and empowerment of Christ within me? Since only God knows, we can only speculate. One possible outcome might have been that the Spirit revealed to your spirit that the real issue here was more than mental illness and intoxication. This woman may have been under some form of demonic oppression. This would have opened the door to give witness to the fact that as Christ followers, we have been given authority over demons in Jesus name. As our American culture devolves into more paganism, I’m sure more opportunities like this will come our way.

  2. Thank you for your honest integrity of truth, JD! I have more stories of spiritual shortcomings than Holy Spirit experiences. When you experience God’s supernatural power at work, one would think that boldness would be front and center next time. I’ll never forget those moments I can’t explain logically or rationally, leaving me knowing God’s supernatural presence was at work. There is no other explanation like the lady whose eyes turned blue and immense where no sclera remained. And her face expressed a look of unconditional love as I’ve never seen before. That is what I witness after finishing praying over her. One would think I’d gravitate for more of those Holy Spirit encounters. One would think.
    I think our challenge is that we want to experience the power ball miracle; the stretched-out hand, the lame skips, or the ears hear—the intoxicated person who is instantly sober and coherent. Like I pray for my daughter.
    I did a forgiveness exercise with trustees at the local jail Thursday night, and the miracle of a soul and spirit being free from the bondage of condemnation occurred. Maybe, in the grand scheme of things, the supernatural healing of a soul outweighs any physical power ball miracle we want to witness.
    Just, maybe.

  3. What might have happened? Hmmm…I’l like to imagine that you would have had the same kind of impact Jesus seemed to have in these situations. The demons would flee, the wild, agitated and delusional would be made calm and sane, and all those around would have gone home wondering what they had just witnessed. (And a tiny little seed of awakening would have been sown…)

    What can we learn? Coulda, shoulda – didn’t. I think we’ve all been there and done that. It’s always nice to know we are on the same (Seedbed) team – that we’re not alone in our fails. Winning some, losing some, learning always. It’s part of the Christian life and living. It doesn’t make you feel in better when you fail, but at least we’re learning we’re not alone.

    Thanks, JD!

  4. The only response that came to mind…
    Lord, take all my fears and failures that I may learn more about You. May all my wins glorify You lest I start putting notches on my belt. Help me to live a life that is more constantly surrendered to the Holy Spirit way of living so I can look more like Jesus every day. In His mighty name, amen.

  5. Church tends to train Christians to focus on what Jesus did in the past (and of course knowing who Jesus is and what He did is vital) but that’s not enough. We also need to learn to focus on what Jesus is doing now (moment by moment) and cooperate with Him.

    Sitting down beside a troubled person and compassionately asking their name can calm them with your show of concern. It can open their heart to your kindness. It distracts them from their angst and refocuses them on a caring connection with a fellow human.

  6. What IS Jesus doing! I love that! WIJD …new bracelet. Thank you for your honesty. I suspect that would be the response of a large percentage of Jesus followers unless one had actual mental health training. Included in the what-ifs: maybe you did exactly what you were asked to do in that moment. I so appreciate the perspective you share with us everyday. Thank you.

  7. What if the Holy Spirit wanted you to walk past the troubled woman and you didn’t fail, but rather you succeeded? Many times Jesus healed without contact, and without even being in the same room or town as the the person needing help. Perhaps your quiet prayer was the needed action. I would not presume to know your heart is anything but pure, but sometimes our motives to help are driven by ego. Had you sat beside her on the curb, you may have become the focus instead of her. I choose to believe Christ touched the first responders who could hear it, through your prayer, and they are getting her the help she needs. I truly enjoy your sermons and your journey into discovery and awakening. I look forward each day to my quiet reading of Seedbed. I am grateful to my friend who led me to your website.

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