I stopped off at the grocery store on the way home from work Friday evening to pick up a few things. I was almost done. Milk: check; beer: check; etc. The last thing on my list was chips. I love chips and salsa, especially with beer (see previous ‘check’).

I grabbed the bag of tortilla chips, turned my cart around to head to the checkout, and there was a guy with another cart coming up behind me. We were right next to one of those damned stack o’ groceries displays in the middle of the aisle, creating a choke point. For a brief moment, we were facing each other as we both maneuvered around the display. During that time, we briefly established eye contact.

Normally, at times like this, perfect strangers will offer a bland “Hi” or “Hello,” or a generic smile. In case of two men, like this one, I was expecting the ever-popular short head nod: Men’s body language for “wassup, dude?” I was prepared for any of these.

But no. That’s not what I get.

In that split second of eye-contact between two perfect strangers in the middle of the chip aisle in a grocery store, he says to me, “Do you believe in Jesus?”

And me, being pathetically honest, respond immediately with, “Um, not really.”

Luckily, the movement of the carts were such that I could get around him now and keep heading for the checkout. Which was good, because I was suddenly terrified that dozens of people were going to leap out from the shelves and start handing me pamphlets and inviting me to their Sunday service.

I did catch the stunned look on his face. I don’t think he was expecting someone to deny Jesus in the chip aisle. In his experience, most other chip eaters must believe in Jesus.

As I hurried down the aisle, he called out from behind me, “Why would you say that?”

And I, trying not to sound anything like I truly in my heart, really wanted to be Saved, but couldn’t admit it to myself, replied with my most non-comittal: “It’s just not my thing, man.” I made it out of the aisle alive and pamplet-free.

Thankfully, he didn’t engage in pursuit. I checked out fine and made it to my car without further solicitation.

Afterwards, I had to wonder: Why did he ask me that? Was I exuding some non-Christian aura that only Christians can see?

I have an evolve fish on my car, but if he had seen the car and followed me into the store, he should have caught up with me well before that. Or: I had a case of beer in my cart, and some people don’t think that’s very Christian.

Or does he just ask every random person that crosses his path? Is that an acceptable greeting or introduction in some circles?

I dunno. I’ve just never been asked that question so directly by a complete stranger before.

I’ve had many people hope that their good lord will bless me or tell me that their savior loves me. In those cases, I am a gracious recipient of their blessings, because I know it is an act of kindness on their part. I don’t really believe what they say, but I appreciate their sentiment.

People sometimes say those things with a measure of pity in their voice. They seem sad because they are convinced I’m going to burn in their hell. That’s okay, too, I suppose. At least I’ve gotten used to that.

But having a stranger ask me on the chip aisle if I believe in Jesus was a first. It was just so completely out of context. Surreal. Maybe next time I’ll get crackers. That’s on a different aisle.