The little shop was the kind that never got clean, no matter how much the shopkeeper’s wife scrubbed at it—which wasn’t very much at all. The windows were broken and dingy, looking out onto a street that mirrored its sad condition. Still, business was very good for the one reason that this general store had the lowest prices.
The door opened and a bell rang loudly causing the clerk working steadily at the counter to look up expectantly. Recognizing the customer, he offered a ready smile and rose from his seat.
The young man standing before him looked at him with grateful, steady grey eyes much in contrast to the hopeless ones he had owned years earlier. “Well, Zadok,” he said, offering his hand, “I’ve come to say goodbye. Our team leaves tomorrow morning early on the train.”
The clerk took it readily and shook it in a hearty grasp. “Goodbye Andrew and Godspeed.”
“I’ll never forget how you have helped me and shown me the Good News that only brings hope. I’ll tell everyone I share with about you, how your heart goes with me,” the former errand boy said earnestly.
“Only His glory, Andrew, only His. Goodbye,” Zadok replied. His eyes and his thoughts followed the young missionary out the door. A time when he had dreamed of the mission field came to his mind as it often did…
The little brown house came into view and his steps quickened as much as his graduation gown would allow. Freeing his hand from the stack of books he carried he rapped on the door. A young girl opened it and smiled up at her brother.
“Hello Hannah, where is Mother?” he asked looking past her into the bustling kitchen where everyone but Mother seemed to be at that moment. He knew they were making a special dinner just for him, and he smiled at the thought.
“With Father. He seems to be doing worse,” Hannah said holding the door open wide for him and the moving the little boy that tried to squirt out.
Without a word, he pushed past the others, who greeted him heartily, and tapped lightly on the bedroom door.
Mother opened it with a cheerful smile that did not match the circles around her eyes.
“How is he?” Zadok whispered suddenly feeling very conspicuous in his graduation attire.
“Eager to see his oldest son. He was disappointed to miss your graduation ceremony,” Mother replied smoothing back the dark brown hair that tumbled onto his forehead.
Father was lying on his bed, a book propped up in his thin hands. A faint smile came to his face when he saw his son, but nothing more in the way of greeting.
“Hello, Father,” the young man said touching one of his father’s hands. “My graduation went well today, even the speech, though I’ve always been bad at those. I kept my things on to show you.”
Father smiled, and Zadok’s eyes grew dim. Sensing this, Mother led him gently to the door.
“Oh, Zadok, it’s all right. There is hope, the doctor said so,” Mother said.
“I wish he could talk. There are so many questions I have to ask him. I’ve always thought God wanted me to be a missionary, but now I can’t. What do I do instead?” the young man replied bitterly.
“Ask God. I’ll tell Hannah to keep dinner so you can go for a walk in the field,” his mother answered.
The air was sweet and refreshing outside; reminding the young man very much of the day he had first met a missionary and wanted to be one himself.
“Lord, what work do You have for me to do?” he asked aloud wading through the thick grasses of the hayfield.
The missionary’s words came back to him. “There are many ways to serve God.”
He lay down in the grass and gazed at the house. It was a small thing surrounded by the sea of grass, but a thin stream of smoke winding up from the chimney told of the comforts within.
“Inside that house, Mother and Hannah are giving of what they have to bless us all. God, I know what You want me to do—serve at home, but in comparison it doesn’t seem like much at all. I had greater plans.”
He flipped open his Bible and turned the pages idly. It struck him that here he was arguing with God about his future when all along he should have been asking for God’s plan. He stopped turning the pages and his eyes fell on a particular verse. “A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.”*
“My heart has been filled with pride. I now know that I planned this, Lord, for my glory, not Yours. You are directing me somewhere else. But what good will this do for Your kingdom? Surely working at a low-class shop in a dirty part of town is much less than spreading Your Good News.”
He began to play again with the thin pages of his Bible and finally decided to open it to the book of Isaiah. The words were heavily underlined, “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.”**
“There is no immediate fruit from this labor. Show me what I am to do, and someday I will know why. Please help me to be obedient to You in the days to come with a cheerful and willing heart.”
Encouraged, he rose and quickly crossed the yard to the house. Again Hannah greeted him cheerfully with “Dinner’s ready.”
Already feeling much better, Zadok picked up the nearest young child, tossed him into the air and caught him again with a bear hug. He couldn’t see God’s plan, but he knew that he would follow along.
His first day at the shop had been a hard contrast to his glorious dream, but his family was cared for and there were still ways to serve God. Maybe Andrew was one of the reasons he had been called to this little shop on a dirty street.
*Proverbs 16:9, NKJV
**Isaiah 55:9, NKJV