There was a problem at the store’s point of check out. The line of waiting customers stalled and those nearest her were subjected to a loud woman intent on drawing a customer right behind her into conversation. At first I was annoyed by her rudeness and grateful we had this one person between us. But without any way not to hear, I soon became interested in what she was saying—and even more interested in how the beleaguered customer, held captive by her position in line, was reacting.

The loud lady, it seemed, had just moved back to Memphis from New York City. She had discovered that in New York people were much more open to various religious beliefs. She found Memphians were very behind the times, not open at all. She stated emphatically that it really didn’t matter what you believed just as long as you believed in something–a higher power of some kind. I watched as the woman sandwiched between us chose not to respond. The silence provoked the loud lady to try harder.

“I was brought up in a faith where you were encouraged not to read the Bible for yourself and when I finally tried it, I didn’t like the Old Testament so I only read the New Testament– if I read the Bible at all. The Old Testament is filled with things I don’t like to hear. It’s awful.” Finally a response: “It is all the same story and you need to read it all.” The loud lady began again, “I don’t attend church, there’s no need to when there are so many preachers on television. The one I really like is (a well-known pastor) because he talks only about good things; he’s the one who has it right.” The captive lady shook her head. The loud lady said, “What’s wrong with him?” “You are being conned; life doesn’t work that way. He isn’t preaching the whole truth” said the captive. That response provoked the loud lady to defend the “everything is wonderful” pastor, by saying with a quick nod of her head, “I believe he is right and that’s what I’m choosing to believe.” The captive lady softly responded just this once more but she preached a sermon: “And someday life will be over for all of us and some will be surprised to learn that it isn’t okay to believe whatever you choose.”

Thankfully, the register began working again and the loud lady was soon checked out. She turned to the lady behind her and said “Nice talking to you” and received a kind smile.

To hear the testimony from the lady in front of me was worth the wait and the aggravation of a too loud and determined to be heard customer. In a very few words, the lady who was somewhat ambushed had responded kindly and well. She chose her words and times to speak very carefully and there was never an argumentative tone. I want to think that this unhappy-to-be-back-in-Memphis lady is as open as she believes herself to be and will think about what she heard. I hope she will decide to read the Bible searchingly and choose for herself what is truth. It is far too important a decision to allow others to make for you.