I’ve spent a lot of time lately feeling unwanted, unknown, and unloved in general. I suspect a lot of other singles deal with such feelings and I have to remind myself often that I’m not the only person that feels and fears these things. Usually it’s an annoying tickle in my mind that nags at me, reminds me that when I get home no one’s going to care how my day was, no one’s going to be around the house to talk to, no one’s going to care whether or not I have a good night.
But for the past week, the usual empty echo of singleness has been magnified. I’ve just moved into a new town and on top of all those other struggles, I feel out of place, awkward, and often plain useless. I wrestle with feeling abandoned sometimes by friends and often by God. I sat down to write this evening, wanting to express some of that struggle, and was interrupted in the middle of it because I wore my green shoes.
As I sat in Starbucks, minding my own business and looking for some inspiration in Buechner’s Whistling in the Dark, a young man approached me, told me his name was Monday, and asked for a moment of my time. He was nicely dressed and groomed and very polite but as soon as he begged my pardon, I knew what he was up to. He was a proselytizer. Ugh. There needs to be a better word for these people, something meatier, something like ‘busker’, after all isn’t this the spiritual equivalent of busking? Whatever you call them, they get on my nerves.
On one level, I’m glad they’re out there. I’m sure there’s good that comes of their effort and I’m always polite when they approach me but my point of irritation begins when I tell them that that yes, as a matter of fact I will go to heaven if I die tonight and I have accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior and that doesn’t satisfy them. They persist as if my confession can’t be taken at face value. This drives me nuts.
I will admit however that there is another part of me that secretly admires these people for engaging in a zealous sort of evangelism that I think any of the apostles would have cheered about. I especially admire those street corner preachers that are mad as hatters and stand on their boxes all day shouting the gospel (or their version of it) to the masses. Isn’t that, or something very like it, what the prophets of old did?
So there I sat, and there stood Monday, both of us knowing how awkward the other felt. Then he said something that threw me. “I’m on a treasure hunt. Do you mind if I sit down and ask you a few questions?” Despite my irritation at the interruption, I smiled and assured him that he was welcome to ask. He sat opposite me, placed a book on the table, and opened it. Oh great, I thought, he’s going to start quoting scripture at me. He didn’t. The book wasn’t a bible, it was a journal of sorts. He had the date written at the top of the page and listed below it a small jumble of words that I couldn’t read.
“I’m on a treasure hunt,” he said. “I ask the Lord to give me clues and I write them down then go out to look for the treasure.”
Alllllrighty then! At this point, it’s all I can do to keep from laughing and rolling my eyes. I’m in pure patronization mode. “So what clues can I help you with,” I ask.
“The first thing I wrote down today before I walked in here was ‘green shoes’ and I see that you’re wearing green shoes.”
I was, and agreed with him that it was so. Then he read off a few more of his clues.
“Does the name ‘Alex’ mean anything to you?” he asked. It didn’t but this was getting more entertaining by the minute. He continued scanning his list of clues, occasionally asking me about one or another until we got to the end and determined that none of the rest of his clues had anything to do with me.
Monday scratched his head and said, “I guess it’s just the green shoes then.” He closed his book and apologized for having taken up my time. Then he said something that caught me completely off my guard. “God wanted me to let you know that you are a great treasure and he loves you very much.” The genuine way in which he said it, the lack of agenda, the humility with which he spoke, the undeniable timeliness of the message, it all converged on me so thickly it was dizzying. I was dumbfounded, I couldn’t speak, I could scarcely breathe, and it was all I could do to hold back tears.
Not five minutes earlier, I had been struggling to make some sense of the loneliness and anger I was feeling. I felt unloved, unknown, useless and abandoned. Then, in walked a stranger who sat down and told me I was a “great treasure.”
“Do you know Jesus?” he asked me and I told him that I did. “Thank you for your time, brother.” He offered his hand, I shook it, and he walked out.
Today the Creator of life took time to reassure me that I’m not alone, that I am loved, that I have not only value, but great value. Who am I to argue. Thanks for noticing my shoes, Monday, and may God bless your treasure hunt.
Pete Peterson is the author of the Revolutionary War adventure The Fiddler’s Gun and its sequel Fiddler’s Green. Among the many strange things he’s been in life are the following: U.S Marine air traffic controller, television editor, art teacher and boatwright at the Florida Sheriffs Boys Ranch, and progenitor of the mysterious Budge-Nuzzard. He lives in Nashville with his wife, Jennifer, where he's the Executive Director of the Rabbit Room and Managing Editor of Rabbit Room Press.