The Country Store – A Short Story

Stephen came to an intersection. A seemingly wrong turn had landed him here. He was off course – the course he intended to take anyway – and all he could think about was the time he was losing. Anxiety began to swell within him as he was itching to get back on track. He hated wrong turns and now he was lost.

They’re an odd thing really, wrong turns that is. Slight misjudgments that land you somewhere unintended. Our natural reaction is frustration, anxiety, and even anger when we don’t find ourselves where we intended on being. Life is too busy for wrong turns, isn’t it? Whether our own error in judgement or unavoidable circumstances have led us there, we usually find something or someone to blame.

In Stephen’s case, it was his own decision. But, if his parent’s hadn’t gotten divorced, he wouldn’t be making this trip anyway. Nonetheless, he loved his dad and he wanted to spend time with him over the Thanksgiving holiday.

He made a left and continued to drive. The country scene unfolded before him, a highway that seemed to continue for miles without interruption. Soon, a faint dot grew larger with each passing second. It was a small country store. Frustrated and longing for directions, he stopped. Maybe someone here would know where he was and how he could get back on track. Yet, as he approached the store, his frustration gave way to his inability to ignore something special about this place.

The store was old, yet spotless, torn from the pages of time. There were no gas pumps, just a simple store. Stephen wondered how it even stayed in business as he didn’t recall seeing any homes on his drive. The entire scene was oddly comfortable and familiar, although he had never been here before. It was as if he was stepping back in time; a place long gone from the bustle of the world in which he lived. In a way, he belonged here.

As he entered the store, the heavy glass door touched a bell, that gave a warm ring. To his right, he saw a man cleaning the floor. The man casually looked up and smiled, “Good morning!”

Stephen mustered a hello as he carefully looked about the place. Everything was neat, perfectly in its place. Every package was beautiful symmetrical and the floor was spotless. The lighting gave off a unique, warm glow. “You sure do have a beautiful store here,” Stephen said.

“Well thank you. I figure anything worth doing is worth doing well.” The storekeeper didn’t look up from his chore.

Stephen walked to the back of the store to grab a bottle of water as he felt obligated to engage the store financially rather than just stop and go. His feeling of deja vu was overwhelming as he didn’t even have to look for the location of the water. His feet took him there without even thinking. Had he been here before? Stephen grabbed his water and headed to the register as the store keeper set down his broom and walked to meet him.

“Name’s Allen, will that be all today?” Asked the store keeper. He had a kind, welcoming smile and an inquisitive brow.

“Uh…yeah…Allen and maybe you can help me find my way,” Stephen answered. His words escaped him as his experience became more surreal.

“Where are you headed?”

Stephen was so sure of his destination just minutes ago, but now he almost had to think about it. “I’m headed to…”

“You know sometimes you know exactly where you’re going and sometimes you don’t. Either way, you’re here.”

Stephen was puzzled by the interruption, “What does that mean?”

“Well Stephen, I guess the point is, you are where you are and you are here. Doesn’t mean you’re lost. Doesn’t matter where you came from. I guess it doesn’t mean where you thought you were going is where you’re supposed to be either.”

Did he just call me Stephen? Had I told him my name? Stephen was so puzzled that he nearly missed Allen’s words, but they rested in his mind. You are here. “How’d you know my name?” Stephen was avoiding the deepening conversation.

“Didn’t you tell me a minute ago? Well, I thought you did. Either way, you are Stephen aren’t you? And you are here?”

“Yeah, I am.” Stephen couldn’t deny either.

“Ok good! Tell me Stephen, have you ever been so sure of something at one point and then found yourself questioning it later? Better yet, have you found yourself questioning something and then been so sure?”

Stephen knew this to be true. So many times in his life he had bumps in the road and turns he never expected. There were relationships he was so certain of and beliefs that were challenged. In the end, there were so many uncertainties. However, right now, in this place, uncertainty seemed non-existent. There was clarity that whispered to his soul. Stephen could feel his heart swell inside of his chest. He replied, “Yes, I’ve been there a time or two.”

“That’s good, that means you’re living. And that means you’re taking time to look at life; to question. Time to seek directions. That’s why you came here isn’t it? Direction?”

“Well, I actually took a wrong turn and…yeah, I came here for directions.” In that moment, Stephen realized that although he was off course, it didn’t seem that way anymore. In hindsight, he had to make this stop. He was here. Attempting to add practicality back into the conversation, Stephen interjected, “By the way, how does this little store make it out here in the middle of nowhere. It’s so hard to find.”

“Well Stephen, sometimes the most beautiful places are the most difficult to get to. And sometimes, if we’re not careful, we’ll miss them altogether.”

Allen’s words reminded Stephen of a hiking trip he’d taken years before. Stephen wasn’t an outdoorsmen as you might think, but had decided to traverse one of the harder trails while vacationing in the mountains. He was exhausted as he reached the trail’s end, but as he came over the crest, the view was remarkable. The way the sun touched the mountains could only be seen from that spot. That spot, like this small country store, held so much clarity.

Stephen’s memories rushed over him as he began to recognize those moments in his life.

All at once, Stephen had incredible clarity. He saw every turn, every bump in the road as a certain choice that led him to this point. His past experiences had not been by chance. He was here, at this place, in this moment. His past but a series of experiences culminating into a beautiful story. Interestingly enough, the most painful memories seemed to be the clearest and the most necessary. His eyes filled with tears as his past washed over him in waves. It was as if his soul was pouring out, bursting from inside him with joy. The certainty humbled him in the moment, but gave him incredible confidence.

He was here.

“You’re absolutely right, Allen.” Stephen’s voice cracked as he tried to hide his emotion.

“Well, right or wrong, you’re not supposed to stay are you?” Allen wasn’t insensitive, he was encouraging.

Stephen felt the ambition inside of him, he knew he was to carry on. “No, I’m not, but I sure am glad I stopped.”

“Well, most people are, it’s just a shame very few do. Not enough people visit; not enough people question, but I’ve never met someone who was sorry they did.”

“Thank you, Allen. I feel like I owe you something?”

“No, no, you don’t owe me a thing. Just stop back by sometime.”

Stephen knew he would as his journey was just beginning.

Question: What does this story mean to you?

MH

 

If you haven't seen my eBook, "I Am Here" you can get a copy here. This story, in a way, symbolizes my own journey. I would love to hear your thoughts as you embrace your story and engage your journey.

Matt

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  • Well needless to say after reading this and thinking about our conversation today I can tell you tears are flowing and my heart is pounding loudly in my chest. God is up to something Matt. You and I need to be calm, quiet, listening for his voice and praying. I was talking with your Mom just a little bit ago and I told her that we are living in such difficult times and people are searching for hope. Yet they are searching in all the wrong places. I believe God would love to see a great revival break out across this land and he is looking for people in every corner of this earth to stand up for him and lead people to the cross, where they will find hope and purpose and joy and contentment. Could it be that God will allow you and I to be a part of that “leading” just where he has planted us. God’s voice is like no other and I believe he woke you up early this morning because he has a plan. His plan, his timing. I am praying that we can be worthy vessels that he can pour for His glory. Love you buddy!

    • Psalm 131 – Calm, Quiet, Content

      “Put your hope in The Lord both now and forevermore”

      Love you Aunt Debbie!