Mrs. Wilson was one of thousands of customers who came through the pharmacy’s doors each day. She was a clumsy woman in her sixties who was not easy to like. A woman of modest means and perhaps that was the reason she wore the same inexpensive print dress everyday. The dress was a bit undersized and opened at the top and, she being well-endowed, it exposed more then anyone cared to see. Her gray straw-like hair jetted out from her head in an uncombed explosion framing a round puffy face dotted with numerous moles and skin tags on a canvas of rosy red skin. Several teeth protruded through her thick lips revealing many gaps and spaces which led the store’s employees to nickname her Snaggletooth.
If one happened to miss her lumbering entrance into the store it would not take long to know she had arrived, for soon her cries would be heard echoing over and through the pharmacy’s canyons of shelves with their perfectly aligned products. The frequency of tantrums were so common that no one bothered to investigate them. Everyone knew what the commotion was all about; an incoherent old woman easily brought to a flood of tears, wildly gesturing at the pharmacist or a clerk about her prescriptions or treatment. This is how the store’s employees had come to know her and why they had bestowed upon her the ignoble title of Snaggletooth.
As time passed Snaggletooth’s outbursts became more frequent and louder, and the store’s employees responded with rudeness; the relationship was in a downward spiral. Often in the back room, away from the customers’ hearing, she was joked about; old Snaggletooth did this or that and the story would be followed by howls of laughter. She had become a joke and not a human being.
Months passed and this pathetic relationship continued to worsen. When she was spotted coming into the store, clerks would scatter from the sales floor like cockroaches in a dark room when the light is flipped on. Hiding in the shadows of the warehouse behind swinging double doors beady eyes would peer out between the cracks to see if she had gone-by and it was clear to return to their work on the floor. However, not long after she passed the clerks places of refuge they knew the spectacle was again about to play out.
Days roll upon each other and one seems to be like another, but some days stand out. They are days when the Christian says, “We’ll have no more of this.” On such a day she, who had become a joke, entered the store, and those who were there to serve all of the store’s customers responded by making the sales floor look like an unopened bowling alley. It is easy to be a lemming and follow others over a cliff, or in this case into the back-room till the storm we called Snaggletooth had passed, but Christ calls the Christian to act and to end any abuse whenever possible.
It was not hard for me to approach the old woman with a false smile and say, “Good morning Mrs. Wilson how are you today? Do you need some help?”
It was as if someone had popped up out of a grave and yelled boo. She clutched her plastic shopping bag to her over-sized breasts, and with her eyes and mouth opened wide stepped backwards into a display of vodka. Bottles flew everywhere crashing to the floor and vodka began flowing down the isles. Inquisitive eyes appeared between the cracks of the warehouse doors and howls of laughter could be heard over the crashing of glass bottles.
“Don’t worry about that Mrs. Wilson, I’ll clean it up. May I help you?”
She was frightened by my attention and replied, “No.”
However, I remained with her and walked her back to the prescription counter making small talk like we were old friends. Before I left her I said, “If you have any problem with your prescription today call me first and I’ll come over and help you.”
“Why thank you,” she replied.
I walked away to clean up the mess I had caused. Mrs. Wilson was so used to being mistreated that she no longer knew how to react to someone cared about her.
The next day she returned to the store. My friends rebuked me, “Kirby, your crazy helping that old Snaggletooth, what are you trying to do?” I ignored their criticisms and approached her in the same manner, and this time she smiled and was different in her response. I asked how she was, helped her get a cart, and walked her down the aisle. Again I asked her to call me if she needed any help at all.
The situation changed rapidly and we never had trouble with Mrs. Wilson again. Her nickname remained with her, but she became a good customer. Other employees began talking to her and greeting her. The crying and yelling stopped, and never again was there a mass exodus of employees from the sales floor when she came in. We gained a good customer, she got respected, and it only cost the store a couple broken bottles of vodka. Beyond these gains I learned how to be a relevant Christian in an uncaring world.
Knowing this story gives you context to what I’m really writing about, and that is the Christians’ job of interceding for the lost. We are presented in our lives many Snaggletooths; unlovable people who are easy to run from, make fun of, or avoid rather than help. But Christ came for the Snaggletooths of the world and, though I don’t care to admit it, I am one of them, too.
Intercession means, “Entreaty in favor of another, especially a prayer or petition to God in behalf of another.”1 As a Christian I know Christ has forgiven me but this is only part of the story. Christ continues to intercede on my behalf before the Holy Father when I sin. He is continually before God imputing his grace to my account; my sins are forgiven completely.
If Christ is interceding for me, it seems that I, as his servant, should be reflecting him to the Snaggletooths of the world that are placed in my path by Christ. As one author points out, “There are no accidents in the Christians life, only divine appointments.”2
There are many people each day who cross our path. Some are like my story where a Christian is able to become directly involved in a situation that leads to a Snaggletooth being changed into a Mrs. Wilson; a joke being turned into a human being. Other times we cannot be directly involved with someone, but in those cases we intercede for them as Christ intercedes for us; with prayer.
Which brings me to my point of this article, intercession can be both physical and prayerful. I believe as Christians when possible we are to interject ourselves into situations and profoundly change their dynamics, or when that is not possible, going before our heavenly father in Christs’ name and saying, “Father, I pray that you will form the mind and heart of Christ in this person, or in this situation, as you have formed him in me and my life.”
1 American Heritage College Dictionary
2 Warren Wiersbe