By Elizabeth C. Searcy
I was excited as my co-worker Toni and I left our office for a popular
cafeteria. It wasn't the cafeteria but the company I was looking forward to.
Toni had recently become a Christian, and we hoped to have an uninterrupted
hour of fellowship. The moment we slid into our booth we wasted no time and got
right to the heart of our conversation. As we shared, I couldn't help but feel
God was blessing us with His presence in a fresh and powerful way.
Out of the corner of my eye, I glimpsed a woman pushing a cart of beverages
on the far side of the room. Slowly, she began to weave her way across the
aisles, filling glasses, one by one. I continued talking with Toni and a
few minutes later, I glanced across the room again. Now I saw the cafeteria
attendant more clearly. She was tall and willowy, in her late 50s with her hair
tied back in a bun. She seemed to be staring at us.
That's odd. I tried my best to ignore the distraction and concentrate on my
I was enjoying my meal when about 10 minutes later, I noticed the attendant
pushing her cart unhurried down our aisle. She passed our booth at a snail's
pace, pausing to look at us, and then continuing on. She never said a word or
offered us a refill. I remember thinking to myself how strange.
An unlikely encounter
The "tea lady," as I affectionately dubbed her, meandered back and forth, up
and down our aisle for the second time. Continuing to stare at us, yet not
extending her hospitality, the tea lady's behavior had me fidgeting in my seat
and feeling very uncomfortable. This lady is not doing her job and what's with
the staring? Now, for the fourth time around, she passed by our table, staring
but not offering. I was extremely frustrated and couldn't keep my mind on
anything I was saying.
Suddenly, like a driver slamming on the brakes of a car, the tea lady and
her cart lurched forward, coming to an abrupt halt in front of our table. No
one said a word.
Imagine my surprise when she leaned across our table and over the food I was
eating. Personal space was not so personal anymore. As the tip of her nose
almost touched mine, I sat still and held my breath.
Rolling my eyes toward her collar, I read her name tag. "Lillian," it
My gaze shifted to Lillian's face. Her height was apparent now as she
towered over me. She didn't budge as her deep soulful eyes seemed to search
mine for truth. Then slowly and methodically she began to speak.
"That's a very interesting conversation you're having," she whispered
mysteriously. I was stunned for the moment and caught off guard by her
Questions and thoughts raced through my mind. How could she have been
listening to us all along? And how did she really know what we were saying when
she was on the opposite side of the room? Yes, Lord, I did sense the Holy
Spirit in a fresh and powerful way as Toni and I chatted… You must have drawn
her from across the room!
Then I began to understand. By divine design, there was a precise order for
my day. When God unfolded these events, I realized my agenda had been
A divine appointment
Now I had a new appointment; to be open to the Holy Spirit's leading and to let
Him fill my mouth. I wasn't going to let fear keep me from responding to
Lillian the way God wanted me to, so I didn't mince words.
"We're talking about Jesus Christ and what He's done in our lives," I
explained. Lillian straightened up, silent, allowing me to finally breathe
again. When she reached for the tea pitcher and finally filled our glasses, I
knew I had to get right to the heart of the gospel, because in a minute she
could be in another aisle.
"God wants to have a personal relationship with each of us," I explained.
"He sent His son Jesus Christ to die on a cross for our sins. You can have
forgiveness and eternal life by accepting His death on the cross for
you." She listened intently to every word, and then I sensed she was
ready for the next question.
"If you'd like me to, I would be very glad to pray with you right here,
asking Jesus to come into your life, and you can receive Him as your Lord and
Savior," I encouraged.
Then unexpectedly, as Lillian stood at our table with pitcher in hand, she
looked up and away toward heaven. She had a faraway gaze in her eyes as if she
was frozen in time, reliving some distant memory. It seemed God's presence held
her sweetly captive when all of a sudden, a sincere, almost grateful look
passed across her face. Lillian then turned to me, leaning back into my face,
slowly speaking, one word at a time.
"I should have done that a long time ago," she said.
I never expected that answer, but I knew it was my cue! Lillian was ready
and I had to be, too. So, amidst the clatter of dishes and curious onlookers, I
led Lillian in a prayer of salvation and Jesus Christ entered human
affairs by a humble invitation.
Praying together had a sacred presence about it, and my conscience was
seared as I came to a realization. I knew nothing on earth was more important
than my obedience to do His will. Likewise, there was nothing more important
than Lillian's acceptance of the Savior who desired to make Himself real in her
After our prayer, the lines that etched Lillian's face only seconds before
were no longer visible. Lillian couldn't contain the emotion within her as she
received forgiveness of her sins and cleansing from God. She praised God
unashamedly in the middle of the cafeteria. Toni and I were witnessing an
outward expression of an inward transformation. The heavy burden of sin Lillian
carried was removed as far as the east is from the west and was replaced by a
joy unspeakable and full of glory.
A new outlook
Every day, I pass people like Lillian who fade into the backdrop of the busy
world around me. Far too many times I've been too wrapped up in my own thoughts
and concerns to allow God to work through me to touch another life. I might not
ever know the events of her past that unlocked a spiritual key for Lillian that
day, but I'm grateful I followed God's leading.
As I drove home from work with Lillian's telephone number tucked in my
purse, I shook my head and laughed. Sure was no ordinary lunch! I was forever
This wasn't the first lunch Jesus transformed, and it certainly won't be the
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